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Subacute cerebellar ataxia following respiratory symptoms of COVID-19: a case report


Werner, Jana; Reichen, Ina; Huber, Michael; Abela, Irene A; Weller, Michael; Jelcic, Ilijas (2021). Subacute cerebellar ataxia following respiratory symptoms of COVID-19: a case report. BMC Infectious Diseases, 21:298.

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Severe acute respiratory syndrome virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is spreading globally and causes most frequently fever and respiratory symptoms, i.e. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), however, distinct neurological syndromes associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection have been described. Among SARS-CoV-2-infections-associated neurological symptoms fatigue, headache, dizziness, impaired consciousness and anosmia/ageusia are most frequent, but less frequent neurological deficits such as seizures, Guillain-Barré syndrome or ataxia may also occur.

CASE PRESENTATION

Herein we present a case of a 62-year-old man who developed a subacute cerebellar syndrome with limb-, truncal- and gait ataxia and scanning speech 1 day after clinical resolution of symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection of the upper airways. Apart from ataxia, there were no signs indicative of opsoclonus myoclonus ataxia syndrome or Miller Fisher syndrome. Cerebral magnetic resonance imaging showed mild cerebellar atrophy. SARS-CoV-2 infection of the cerebellum was excluded by normal cerebrospinal fluid cell counts and, most importantly, absence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA or intrathecal SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody production. Other causes of ataxia such as other viral infections, other autoimmune and/or paraneoplastic diseases or intoxication were ruled out. The neurological deficits improved rapidly after high-dose methylprednisolone therapy.

CONCLUSIONS

The laboratory and clinical findings as well as the marked improvement after high-dose methylprednisolone therapy suggest a post-infectious, immune-mediated cause of ataxia. This report should make clinicians aware to consider SARS-CoV-2 infection as a potential cause of post-infectious neurological deficits with an atypical clinical presentation and to consider high-dose corticosteroid treatment in case that a post-infectious immune-mediated mechanism is assumed.

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Severe acute respiratory syndrome virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is spreading globally and causes most frequently fever and respiratory symptoms, i.e. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), however, distinct neurological syndromes associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection have been described. Among SARS-CoV-2-infections-associated neurological symptoms fatigue, headache, dizziness, impaired consciousness and anosmia/ageusia are most frequent, but less frequent neurological deficits such as seizures, Guillain-Barré syndrome or ataxia may also occur.

CASE PRESENTATION

Herein we present a case of a 62-year-old man who developed a subacute cerebellar syndrome with limb-, truncal- and gait ataxia and scanning speech 1 day after clinical resolution of symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection of the upper airways. Apart from ataxia, there were no signs indicative of opsoclonus myoclonus ataxia syndrome or Miller Fisher syndrome. Cerebral magnetic resonance imaging showed mild cerebellar atrophy. SARS-CoV-2 infection of the cerebellum was excluded by normal cerebrospinal fluid cell counts and, most importantly, absence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA or intrathecal SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody production. Other causes of ataxia such as other viral infections, other autoimmune and/or paraneoplastic diseases or intoxication were ruled out. The neurological deficits improved rapidly after high-dose methylprednisolone therapy.

CONCLUSIONS

The laboratory and clinical findings as well as the marked improvement after high-dose methylprednisolone therapy suggest a post-infectious, immune-mediated cause of ataxia. This report should make clinicians aware to consider SARS-CoV-2 infection as a potential cause of post-infectious neurological deficits with an atypical clinical presentation and to consider high-dose corticosteroid treatment in case that a post-infectious immune-mediated mechanism is assumed.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Neurology
04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Infectious Diseases
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Medical Virology
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Infectious Diseases
Uncontrolled Keywords:COVID, COVID-19
Language:English
Date:24 March 2021
Deposited On:22 Oct 2021 10:20
Last Modified:25 Jun 2024 01:43
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN:1471-2334
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12879-021-05987-y
PubMed ID:33761897
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)