MxA protein accumulates cytoplasmically in response to interferon stimulation, and mediates resistance against several viruses. In order to test whether MxA may serve as a diagnostic tool for viral infections of the central nervous system (CNS), we performed MxA immunohistochemistry on biopsies and autopsies of 57 patients with neurological disorders of known viral and nonviral aetiology. MxA was detectable in all HIV patients with proven opportunistic viral encephalitis, in all patients suffering from isolated viral encephalitis, in one of three HIV patients with cerebral toxoplasmosis, and in one case of micronodular encephalitis. No MxA was detectable in HIV patients with isolated HIV encephalitis or HIV infection accompanied by an opportunistic nonviral disorder. We were unable to show MxA expression in a variety of nonviral inflammatory and noninflammatory disorders of the CNS. Several cases of Rasmussen's encephalitis and multiple sclerosis tested negative, arguing against their possible viral aetiology. Two-colour immunohistochemistry identified macrophages and activated microglia as MxA expressing cells. In all studied cases MxA expression was accompanied by a marked T-cell infiltrate. Therefore, the detection of MxA-protein is a sensitive adjuvant marker for those cases of viral encephalitis which are accompanied by pronounced lymphocytic infiltrates.