OBJECTIVE:

We aimed to describe the clinical features and outcome of human parechovirus (HPeV) encephalitis cases identified by the Australian Childhood Encephalitis (ACE) study.

METHODS:

Infants with suspected encephalitis were prospectively identified in 5 hospitals through the (ACE) study. Cases of confirmed HPeV infection had comprehensive demographic, clinical, laboratory, imaging, and outcome at discharge data reviewed by an expert panel and were categorized by using predetermined case definitions. Twelve months after discharge, neurodevelopment was assessed by using the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ).

RESULTS:

We identified thirteen cases of suspected encephalitis with HPeV infection between May 2013 and December 2014. Nine infants had confirmed encephalitis; median age was 13 days, including a twin pair. All had HPeV detected in cerebrospinal fluid with absent pleocytosis. Most were girls (7), admitted to ICU (8), and had seizures (8). Many were born preterm (5). Seven patients had white matter diffusion restriction on MRI; 3 with normal cranial ultrasounds. At discharge, 3 of 9 were assessed to have sequelae; however, at 12 months’ follow-up, by using the ASQ, 5 of 8 infants showed neurodevelopmental sequelae: 3 severe (2 cerebral palsy, 1 central visual impairment). A further 2 showed concern in gross motor development.

CONCLUSIONS:

Children with HPeV encephalitis were predominantly young, female infants with seizures and diffusion restriction on MRI. Cranial ultrasound is inadequately sensitive. HPeV encephalitis is associated with neurodevelopmental sequelae despite reassuring short-term outcomes. Given the absent cerebrospinal fluid pleocytosis and need for specific testing, HPeV could be missed as a cause of neonatal encephalopathy and subsequent cerebral palsy.

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