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Data on infectious encephalitis in immunodeficient (ID) individuals are scarce. This population may present with atypical clinical symptoms, be infected by uncommon pathogens and develop poor outcomes.


We aimed to describe the epidemiology of infectious encephalitis among HIV-negative ID patients.


Patients from the ENCEIF (Etude Nationale de Cohorte des Encéphalites Infectieuses en France) prospective cohort meeting criteria for infectious encephalitis between January 2016 and December 2019 were included. We compared clinical presentation, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) results, biological results, infection causes and outcome of ID patients with immunocompetent (IC) patients using Pearson’s chi-squared test and Student’s t-test. We carried out logistic regression to assess the role of immunodeficiency as risk factor for poor outcome.


ID patients (n = 58) were older (mean 72 vs 59 years), had higher prevalence of diabetes (26% vs 12%), pre-existing neurological disorders (12% vs 5%) and higher case-fatality rate (23.6% vs 5.6%) compared to IC patients (n = 436). Varicella zoster virus was the primary cause of encephalitis in ID patients (this aetiology was more frequent in ID (25.9%) than in IC patients (11.5%)), with herpes simplex virus second (22.4% in ID patients vs 27.3% in IC patients). Immunodeficiency was an independent risk factor for death or major sequelae (odds ratio: 3.41, 95%CI: 1.70–6.85).


Varicella zoster virus is the most frequent cause of infectious encephalitis in ID patients. Immunodeficiency is a major risk factor for poor outcome. ID encephalitis patients should benefit from stringent investigation of cause and early empiric treatment.


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