Research Article: Clinical Features, Diagnosis, and Outcome of Encephalitis in French Guiana

Date Published: February 17, 2019

Publisher: The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Author(s): Alexandre Roux, Stéphanie Houcke, Alice Sanna, Cyrille Mathien, Claire Mayence, Romain Gueneau, Geoffroy Liegeon, Gaelle Walter, Dabor Resiere, Narcisse Elenga, Géraldine Resin, Felix Djossou, Didier Hommel, Hatem Kallel.


The aim of our study was to describe the clinical features, the etiologies, and the factors associated with poor outcome of encephalitis in French Guiana. Our study was retrospective, including all cases of encephalitis hospitalized in the Cayenne General Hospital, from January 2007 to July 2017. Patients were included through the 2013 encephalitis consortium criteria and the outcome was evaluated using the Glasgow outcome scale at 3 months from the diagnosis of encephalitis. We included 108 patients, giving an approximate incidence rate of four cases/100,000 inhabitants/year. The origin of the encephalitis was diagnosed in 81 cases (75%), and 72 of them (66.7%) were from an infectious origin. The most common infectious causes were Cryptococcus sp. (18.5%) independently of the immune status, Toxoplasma gondii (13.9%), and Streptococcus pneumoniae (5.5%). In the follow-up, 48 patients (46.6%) had poor outcome. Independent risk factors associated with poor outcome at 3 months were “coming from inside area of the region” (P = 0.036, odds ratio [OR] = 4.19; CI 95% = 1.09–16.06), need for mechanical ventilation (P = 0.002, OR = 5.92; CI 95% = 1.95–17.95), and age ≥ 65 years (P = 0.049, OR = 3.99; CI 95% = 1.01–15.89). The most identified cause of encephalitis in French Guiana was Cryptococcus. The shape of the local epidemiology highlights the original infectious situation with some local specific pathogens.

Partial Text

Encephalitis is a life-threatening condition caused by an inflammation of the brain parenchyma, leading to potentially severe neurologic dysfunction.1 It is an important public health issue, with a worldwide incidence ranging from 1.5 to 7/100,000 inhabitants/year and a case fatality of 7%.2 Encephalitis is a serious condition which is at high risk of severe sequelae and social burden in the long-term outcome. Diagnosis is challenging, with heterogeneous clinical presentations and a large number of etiologies spanning from autoimmune conditions to infectious diseases. Bacterial and viral agents have mainly been identified as causative agents related to encephalitis. Occasionally, fungus can be at the origin of encephalitis, especially among immunocompromised populations.3

Our study is retrospective including all patients with a diagnosis of encephalitis admitted to the Cayenne General Hospital from January 2007 to July 2017. Our hospital is a 510-bed general center that serves as a first-line medical center for an urban population of 150,000 inhabitants and as a referral center (with the only intensive care unit (ICU) in the region) for a larger population coming from all French Guiana.

During the study period, 222 patients were likely to have encephalitis. Among them, 114 patients were excluded because they did not meet all the diagnosis criteria: 58 because of the lack of major criteria and 56 because they had less than two minor criteria. Overall, 108 patients were finally included in this study, giving an incidence rate of four cases/100,000 inhabitants/year. Figure 1 shows the study flowchart.

Our study shows that encephalitis is frequent in French Guiana and that the cause can be identified in up to 75% of cases. The most frequently identified infectious causes were cryptococcosis and toxoplasmosis. Poor outcome was observed in 46% of patients. The independent factors associated with poor outcome were “coming from inside area of the region,” need for mechanical ventilation, and age ≥ 65 years.

Encephalitis in French Guiana is a life-threatening condition with a specific epidemiology. The most responsible infectious agent was Cryptococcus sp. in both immunocompetent and immunocompromised population. The myriad of etiologies found in our study reflects an already known epidemiology for some pathogens such as herpes simplex virus, varicella zoster virus, HIV, S. pneumoniae, or Mycobacterium tuberculosis. But the shape of the local epidemiology highlights the original infectious situation with pathogens such as C. burnetii¸ dengue virus, TONV, chikungunya, RABV, or T. cruzi. A focus should be placed on emerging triggers, especially in the population from the inside areas of the territory which has a significant poor outcome comparing with the population from the coastline. Predictive factors of poor outcome were coming from inside of the region, age older than 65 years, and need of mechanical ventilation. Further studies are needed to understand the specificities of encephalitis in the subgroups. Physicians should be aware from the specificities of encephalitis in the Amazonian region to prompt adequate screenings and antimicrobial treatments.




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