Encephalitis caused by flaviviruses, Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and West Nile virus (WNV) is responsible for significant morbidity and mortality in many endemic countries. Dengue-2 (Den-2) virus is a recent addition to the list of encephalitogenic viruses, after its Central Nervous System (CNS) invasion capability has been established. There is a wide array of laboratory tools that have helped us not only in the diagnosis of these conditions but also in understanding their pathogenesis and pathology. However, there are no reports of Shell Vial Culture (SVC), a centrifuge enhanced tissue culture assay that has revolutionized viral culturing in terms of rapidity and sensitivity being optimized for these flaviviral encephalitic conditions. The present study is an attempt to standardize and evaluate the usefulness of SVC for the laboratory diagnosis of JE, WN and Den-2 encephalitis cases and to compare it with Indirect Immunofluorescence (IIF) technique that detects cell associated virus antigen. Analysis of the various clinical parameters with respect to viral etiology has also been carried out.
Pediatric patients constituted the major group involved in the study (92%). Etiological diagnosis of viral encephalitis could be established in twenty nine (58%) patients. JE encephalitis was the commonest with 19 (39%) cases being positive followed by, WN (9 cases-18%) and Den-2 (one case). IIF test could detect antigens of JE, WN and Den-2 viruses in 16(32%), 7(14%) and 1 case respectively. Shell vial culture assay picked up all cases that were positive by IIF test. In addition, SVC assay could detect 3 and 2 more cases of JE and WN encephalitis respectively, that were negative by the IIF test.
Shell vial culture is a rapid and efficient tool for the etiological diagnosis of JE, WN and Den-2 encephalitis cases. Early, prompt collection, transport and processing of the CSF samples, would make SVC a better method for the rapid diagnosis of these flaviviral infections.