A neurological disorder characterized by inflammation of the brain and spinal cord caused by damage to the myelin sheath covering the nerves. The myelin sheath is the fatty covering that acts as an insulator on nerve fibers in the brain.
ADE appears more often in children and typically follows vaccination or infection. A variety of terminologies is used to describe it, including post infectious, parainfectious, or post-vaccinial ence-phalomyelitis. ADE predominantly affects the white matter of the brain; under a microscope, an invasion of white blood cells around small veins can be seen. Where these cells accumulate, myelin is destroyed. The association of the disease with a prior infection or immunization suggests an immune system problem. Research of ADE patients found that their bodies mount an allergic response against their own brain constituents.
The viral agents most often linked to ADE infections are the viruses that cause St. Louis encephalitis, western equine encephalomyelitis,
California encephalitis (see encephalitis, California,) and the mumps virus, ECHOviRUses, and
ADE was first described 250 years ago by an English physician, who noted that it occurred occasionally in patients who had smallpox.
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