Project title: Differentiating viral encephalitis from its mimics in patients with encephalitis of unknown aetiology

Encephalitis is a disease that develops when microbes like viruses enter the brain, altering its function. These encephalitides can present with confusion, convulsions, forgetfulness, and sometimes death. Many adults in Uganda admitted with encephalitis have no known cause for their illness. Their disease is referred to as encephalitis of unknown aetiology (EUE). Many of these patients die, and some who survive have long-term problems such as paralysis. Our research shows that some of these patients are treated for other diseases like tuberculosis, yet the aetiology could potentially be viral. Biofire technology is a PCR-based platform that can identify these viruses fairly accurately and could reduce the cost of care and improve patient outcomes. It is available in Uganda but unfortunately, it is not commonly used because no research has extensively assessed its use to detect these viruses in EUE patients and the importance of paying for it in Uganda. This study will evaluate the platform's ability to identify these viruses in EUE. Findings from our study will provide data on the utility of using this test in the daily care of patients with EUE in Uganda's public hospitals. It will also tell us the typical viruses these patients have and the best medications to give them. Additionally, we will collect cerebrospinal fluid for future immunology studies to characterize immune cells that enter the brain when one acquires EUE to investigate potential subgroups characterized by different immune responses.

Project lead: Dr. John Kasibante, MBChB, MSc Clinical Immunology

Institution: Research Department, Infectious Diseases Institute, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.

Awarded in 2022