Acute flaccid myelitis and enterovirus D68: lessons from the past and present

Jelte Helfferich, Marjolein Knoester, Coretta C Van Leer-Buter, Rinze F Neuteboom, Linda C Meiners, Hubert G Niesters, Oebele F Brouwer
European Journal of Pediatrics 2019, 178 (9): 1305-1315
Acute flaccid myelitis is characterized by the combination of acute flaccid paralysis and a spinal cord lesion largely restricted to the gray matter on magnetic resonance imaging. The term acute flaccid myelitis was introduced in 2014 after the upsurge of pediatric cases in the USA with enterovirus D68 infection. Since then, an increasing number of cases have been reported worldwide. Whereas the terminology is new, the clinical syndrome has been recognized in the past in association with several other neurotropic viruses such as poliovirus.Conclusion: This review presents the current knowledge on acute flaccid myelitis with respect to the clinical presentation and its differential diagnosis with Guillain-Barré syndrome and acute transverse myelitis. We also discuss the association with enterovirus D68 and the presumed pathophysiological mechanism of this infection causing anterior horn cell damage. Sharing clinical knowledge and insights from basic research is needed to make progress in diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of this new polio-like disease. What is Known: • Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a polio-like condition characterized by rapid progressive asymmetric weakness, together with specific findings on MRI • AFM has been related to different viral agents, but recent outbreaks are predominantly associated with enterovirus D68. What is New: • Improving knowledge on AFM must increase early recognition and adequate diagnostic procedures by clinicians. • The increasing incidence of AFM urges cooperation between pediatricians, neurologists, and microbiologists for the development of treatment and preventive options.

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