In vivo detection of hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA in the brain in a case of encephalitis: evidence for HCV neuroinvasion


Dr Frank Seifert, Department of Neurology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Schwabachanlage 6, D-91054 Erlangen, Germany (tel.: 49 9131 853 4556; fax: 49 9131 854 2497; e-mail:


We report here a 27-year-old woman who presented with encephalitis of unknown origin. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain revealed leukoencephalopathy, cerebrospinal fluid showed signs of inflammation. Serum and brain biopsy tissue was tested positive for hepatitis C virus (HCV). Neuropathological investigation supported the hypothesis of viral encephalitis. C3, C4 and cryoglobulins as well as cerebral MR-angiography were normal. Neurological complications of HCV infection other than hepatic encephalopathy are generally attributed to parainfectious phenomena. This is the first case of HCV-RNA detection in vivo in human brain in literature and it raises the possibility that HCV is able to induce encephalitis caused by neurotrophism. This is supported by the fact that there is a growing body of literature on HCV-induced cerebral dysfunction and laboratory findings indicating HCV neuroinvasion.