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Meningoencephalitis caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae: a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge

Diagnosis with diffusion-weighted MRI leading to treatment with corticosteroids

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Streptococcus pneumoniae is a common cause of bacterial meningitis but only rarely causes other infections such as brain abscess, encephalitis, encephalomyelitis or meningoencephalitis. We report on three adult patients with meningoencephalitis caused by S. pneumoniae. In all three, CT and MRI revealed widespread brain lesions, suggesting extensive parenchymal injury. Diffusion-weighted MRI showed lesions with restricted diffusion, reflecting local areas of ischaemia with cytotoxic oedema secondary to an immunologically mediated necrotising vasculitis and thrombosis. High levels of markers of neuronal, glial and myelin damage were found in the cerebrospinal fluid. According to the literature, brain parenchyma lesions in adults with pneumococcal meningoencephalitis are often associated with death or severe neurological deficit. Our patients were treated with pulse doses of glucocorticoids: this resulted in dramatic clinical improvement and an excellent final neurological recovery.

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Correspondence to Philippe G. Jorens.

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Jorens, P.G., Parizel, P.M., Demey, H.E. et al. Meningoencephalitis caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae: a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge. Neuroradiology 47, 758–764 (2005).

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