Open Access Open Badges Research article

West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease: neurological manifestations and prospective longitudinal outcomes

John Hart1*, Gail Tillman1, Michael A Kraut2, Hsueh-Sheng Chiang1, Jeremy F Strain1, Yufeng Li5, Amy G Agrawal3, Penny Jester5, John W Gnann4, Richard J Whitley5 and the NIAID Collaborative Antiviral Study Group West Nile Virus 210 Protocol Team

Author Affiliations

1 Center for BrainHealth, University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, TX, USA

2 The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

3 NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA

4 Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA

5 University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2014, 14:248  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-248

Published: 9 May 2014



West Nile Virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that has caused ongoing seasonal epidemics in the United States since 1999. It is estimated that ≤1% of WNV-infected patients will develop neuroinvasive disease (West Nile encephalitis and/or myelitis) that can result in debilitating morbidities and long-term sequelae. It is essential to collect longitudinal information about the recovery process and to characterize predicative factors that may assist in therapeutic decision-making in the future.


We report a longitudinal study of the neurological outcomes (as measured by neurological examination, Glascow Coma Scale, and Modified Mini-Mental State Examination) for 55 subjects with WNV neuroinvasive disease (confirmed by positive CSF IgM) assessed on day 7, at discharge, and on days 14, 30, and 90. The neurological outcome measures were coma (presence and degree), global cognitive status, presence of cranial neuropathy, tremors and/or weakness.


At initial clinical presentation 93% presented with a significant neurological deficit (49% with weakness, 35% with tremor, and 16% with cranial neuropathy). The number of patients with a cognitive deficit fell from 25 at initial evaluation to 9 at their last evaluation. Cranial neuropathy was present in 9 at onset and in only 4 patients at study conclusion. Of the 19 patients who had a tremor at enrollment, 11 continued to exhibit a tremor at follow-up. Seven patients died after initial enrollment in the study, with 5 of those having presented in a coma. The factors that predict either severity or long-term recovery of neurological function include age (older individuals were weaker at follow-up examination), gender (males recovered better from coma), and presentation in a coma with cranial nerve deficits (had a poorer recovery particularly with regard to cognition).


This study represents one of the largest clinical investigations providing prospectively-acquired neurological outcomes data among American patients with WNV central nervous system disease. The findings show that the factors that influence prognosis from the initial presentation include age, gender, and specific neurological deficits at onset.

Trial registration identifier: NCT00138463 and NCT00069316.

West Nile virus; Encephalitis; Neurological deficit; 3MS; Coma