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Varicella zoster in sudden infant death


A 2-month-old girl with normal development and no previous physical illnesses was resuscitated having been found lifeless on her back at home. On admission to Paediatric Intensive Care, she had severe metabolic disturbance, associated with an extremely troubling neurological signs. She died 2 hours later. A full body CT scan did not reveal injury and her parents declined an autopsy. Peripheral blood and cerebrospinal fluid samples were sterile. However, a broad-range PCR coupled with electrospray-ionisation mass spectrometry onto the PLEX-ID automat of peripheral blood revealed the presence of varicella zoster virus. There was a specific viral load in whole blood of 20 542 copies/ml. It is presumed that Varicella myocarditis was the likely cause of death. Our case illustrates the potential usefulness of a broad range PCR strategy in determining infectious causes of death in sudden infant death. Varicella is a potential cause of sudden infant death.

  • arrhythmias
  • paediatric intensive care
  • sids
  • infectious diseases

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