Published Date: February 15, 2023

Full Text Article

A West Nile Virus infection expressed as unilateral limb paralysis and complicated by Parsonage-Turner syndrome: a case report

Authors: Antonella Scarciglia, Luca Roncucci, Piero Benatti

J Med Case Rep. 2023 Feb 15;17(1):54. doi: 10.1186/s13256-023-03756-w.


BACKGROUND: West Nile Virus is a single-stranded Ribonucleic Acid arbovirus of the Flaviviridae family that is transmitted to humans by Culex species mosquitoes. West Nile Virus infection is asymptomatic in the majority of affected people. Of those who develop symptoms, the usual manifestation is a febrile syndrome, while only 1% develop neurological symptoms due to a neuroinvasive form of infection, including encephalitis, meningitis, asymmetrical flaccid paralysis, or a combination of all these features. Parsonage-Turner syndrome is a rare disorder characterized by sudden painful symptoms and subsequent paralysis, involving a shoulder or one of the upper limbs due to post-infective brachial plexopathy. The etiology is unknown, although it can be considered a multifactorial process: a predisposing factor, such as viral infection or strenuous upper-extremity exercise, can trigger an immune-mediated process localized in the brachial plexus.

CLINICAL PRESENTATION: In late summer, a 79-year-old male Italian patient was admitted to the emergency department for acute right upper limb weakness and high fever, without any mental status impairment, pain, sensory alterations, or signs of meningeal irritation. Laboratory tests confirmed acute West Nile Virus infection, expressed as a unilateral upper limb flaccid paralysis. After a few days, the patient reported an acute pain in the right upper limb scarcely responsive to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug therapy and a subsequent wider distribution of flaccid paralysis. After multiple examinations, Parsonage-Turner syndrome could be suspected. Patient was treated with steroids and reported an improvement of clinical condition after 2 months, with complete pain remission but partial strength recovery in the affected limb.

CONCLUSIONS: West Nile Virus disease has a broad spectrum of neurological manifestations, among which the most common are signs of meningeal irritation or cognitive impairment. We report an unusual presentation of neuroinvasive West Nile Virus infection with arm weakness as expression of unilateral viral neuritis, followed by a post-infective brachial plexopathy consistent with Parsonage-Turner syndrome diagnosis. We diagnosed Parsonage-Turner syndrome after excluding the most common causes of atraumatic acute upper limb pain, through a challenging differential diagnosis in a patient with several comorbidities.

PMID: 36788625DOI: 10.1186/s13256-023-03756-wPMC: PMC9930236