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VZV myelitis with secondary HIV CSF escape
  1. Julian J Weiss1,2,
  2. Serena Spudich1 and
  3. Lydia Barakat2
  1. 1Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  2. 2Infectious Diseases, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lydia Barakat; lydia.barakat{at}


A 52-year-old woman with HIV and recent antiretroviral therapy non-adherence presented with a 5-day history of widespread painful vesicular skin lesions. Direct fluorescent antibody testing of the skin lesions was positive for varicella zoster virus (VZV). On day 3, she developed profound right upper extremity weakness. MRI of the brain and cervical spine was suggestive of VZV myelitis. Lumbar puncture was positive for VZV PCR in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and CSF HIV viral load was detected at 1030 copies/mL, indicating ‘secondary’ HIV CSF escape. She was treated with intravenous acyclovir for 4 weeks and subsequent oral therapy with famciclovir then valacyclovir for 6 weeks. She also received dexamethasone. The patient had an almost full recovery at 6 months. Myelitis is a rare complication of reactivated VZV infection that can have atypical presentation in immunocompromised patients. Such ‘secondary’ HIV CSF escape should be considered in immunosuppressed patients with concomitant central nervous system infection.

  • HIV / AIDS
  • infection (neurology)

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  • Contributors JJW: Drafting the manuscript. SS: Critical revision of the manuscript. LB: Critical revision of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer-reviewed.