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Paradoxical manifestations during tuberculous meningitis treatment among HIV-negative patients: a retrospective descriptive study and literature review



Tuberculous meningitis (TBM) is the most frequent, severe, and disabling form of central nervous system (CNS) tuberculosis (TB). TBM paradoxical manifestations are characterized by clinical or paraclinical worsening after 1 month of effective anti-TB treatment in patients who initially responded to treatment despite the use of adjunctive corticosteroids.


Retrospective descriptive study of consecutive HIV-negative adult patients (≥ 18 years) with definitive TBM who developed a paradoxical manifestation following anti-TB in a tertiary-care hospital in Mexico from 2009 to 2019; we also conducted a literature review of published cases/series of paradoxical manifestations in HIV-negative patients from 1980 to 2020.


We detected 84 cases of definitive TBM; 55 (68.7%) HIV-negative patients and 29 (36.3%) HIV-infected patients. Among HIV-negative patients, four (7.3%), three female and one male (19–49 years old), developed a paradoxical manifestation within 4–14 weeks following treatment initiation despite receiving adequate corticosteroid doses; Mycobacterium bovis was isolated from the cerebrospinal fluid of three cases and Mycobacterium tuberculosis in one more. Two patients developed vasculopathy-related cerebral infarctions, one severe basilar meningitis, and hydrocephalus, one more a tuberculoma. Two were treated with intravenous cyclophosphamide, and two with steroids. One of the patients treated with steroids died; patients who received cyclophosphamide had a good clinical response.


This case series illustrates the diverse clinical/radiologic paradoxical manifestations of TBM in HIV-negative patients. Cyclophosphamide may be safe and effective in treating TBM-associated paradoxical manifestations. Specific diagnostic and care protocols for these patients are needed.

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Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Rogelio Domínguez-Moreno or Miguel García-Grimshaw.

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The study was revised and approved by our institutional Ethics and Research Committees (Reference: NER-2706–18-18–1). Due to the nature of the study, both Committees waived the need for signed informed consent.

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Rogelio Domínguez-Moreno and Miguel García-Grimshaw contributed equally to this work as co-first authors. Carlos Cantú-Brito and Alejandra González-Duarte are senior co-authors

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Domínguez-Moreno, R., García-Grimshaw, M., Medina-Julio, D. et al. Paradoxical manifestations during tuberculous meningitis treatment among HIV-negative patients: a retrospective descriptive study and literature review. Neurol Sci (2021).

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  • Tuberculous meningitis
  • Paradoxical manifestation
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Mycobacterial infection
  • Central nervous system tuberculosis