Eosinophilic meningitis (EoM) is an acute disease that affects the central nervous system. It is primarily caused by infection with the nematode Angiostrongylus cantonensis. This infection was previously restricted to certain Asian countries and the Pacific Islands, but it was first reported in Brazil in 2007. Since then, intermediate and definitive hosts infected with A. cantonensis have been identified within the urban areas of many states in Brazil, including those in the northern, northeastern, southeastern and southern regions. The goals of this review are to draw the attention of the medical community and health centres to the emergence of EoM in Brazil, to compile information about several aspects of the human infection and mode of transmission and to provide a short protocol of procedures for the diagnosis of this disease.
Angiostrongylus cantonensis and Gnathostoma spinigerum are the two most common causative parasites of eosinophilic meningitis (EOM). Serological tests are helpful tools for confirming the identity of the pathogen. Recent reports determined the specificity of such tests by using normal healthy controls. There have been limited studies done to rule out the cross-reactivity between these two causative parasites of EOM. This study aims to assess the specificity of the serological test in EOM by using each condition as a control for the other. Thirty-three patients with a diagnosis of EOM were enrolled. Sera from 22 patients with a positive 29-kDa antigenic diagnostic band of A. cantonensis were tested for the 21 and 24-kDa antigenic bands of G. spinigerum. Similarly, sera of 11 gnathostomiasis patients were tested for the 29-kDa diagnostic band for A. cantonensis. Only one patient in the angiostrongyliasis group had a positive result for the 21 and 24-kDa antigenic bands of G. spinigerum, while no gnathostomiasis patients showed a positive result for the 29-kDa antigenic band of A. cantonensis. The specificity of the 21 and 24-kDa antigenic bands for gnathostomiasis and the 29-kDa antigenic band for A. cantonensis was 95.5% and 100%, respectively. The antigenic bands for the diagnosis of gnathostomiasis and angiostrongyliasis in EOM were highly specific.
The diagnosis of meningitic angiostrongyliasis (MA) is based on clinical criteria. A lumbar puncture is used as a diagnostic tool, but it is an invasive procedure. The blood eosinophil levels are also assessed and used in the diagnosis of this disease. We enrolled 47 patients with serologically proven MA and 131 controls with intestinal parasite infections. An absolute eosinophil count model was found to be the best marker for MA. An eosinophil count of more than 798 cells led to sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive and negative predictive values of 76.6%, 80.2%, 58.1% and 90.5%, respectively. These data support the use of testing for high blood eosinophil levels as a diagnostic tool for MA in individuals that are at risk for this disease.