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Herpes-simplex-related antigen in human demyelinative disease and encephalitis


Using immunohistochemical methods optimized to detect herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) antigen, paraffin sections from human central nervous system tissues from 31 cases pathologically diagnosed as multiple sclerosis (MS), 34 cases of other neurological diseases, 4 adult cases of HSV encephalitis, and mouse brains infected with various HSV strains were examined. Two distinct patterns of immunoreactivity with HSV antisera were seen. In typical acute human and experimental encephalitis, antigen was readily detected using high dilutions of antisera to both HSV types −1 and −2, and was found nonselectiviely in both neurons and glia. Lesions were destructive, with necrosis of all neural cell types, and inflammation was a mixture of polymorphonuclear and mononuclear cells. By contrast, immunoreactivity in lesions in each of three MS cases and in one case of brain stem encephalitis was found only with HSV-2 antisera, and relatively high antiserum concentrations were required to detect it. Reactivity appeared to be largely restricted to glial cell nuclei within and near lesions that were selectively demyelinated. Only mononuclear inflammation was present. These experiments suggest that HSV-related antigen may be found in a broader spectrum of human CNS lesions than has previously been recognized, and that HSV or a related agent may be associated with a selective infection of glial cells and with CNS demyelination.

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Correspondence to J. R. Martin.

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Martin, J.R., Holt, R.K. & deF. Webster, H. Herpes-simplex-related antigen in human demyelinative disease and encephalitis. Acta Neuropathol 76, 325–337 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00686969

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Key words

  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Demyelinative disease
  • Herpes encephalitis