Severe paradoxical reaction in tuberculous meningitis.
Donovan J., Thanh NT., Thwaites GE., Phu NH.
A 31-year-old female presented with a 3-week history of fever and headache. CSF Ziehl-Neelsen smear microscopy revealed acid-fast bacilli, and CSF GeneXpert MTB/RIF was positive for Mycobacterium tuberculosis with no mutations of rifampicin resistance. Tuberculous meningitis (TBM) was diagnosed. Baseline contrast-enhanced brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was unremarkable. Eight weeks later the patient developed markedly reduced visual acuity and clinical signs consistent with left 3rd and 6th cranial nerve palsies. Repeat contrast-enhanced brain MRI revealed extensive tuberculous exudate filling the basal cisterns of the brain consistent with a severe paradoxical reaction of TBM. High dose intravenous dexamethasone was administered, with visual acuity returning to near-normal over 3-4 weeks. In TBM paradoxical inflammatory reactions are common yet difficult to predict. When severe, they may result in substantial neurological morbidity and death. Prompt host directed therapies such as corticosteroids may reduce chances of permanent neurological damage.