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Concept: Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome


Prosultiamine, a vitamin B1 derivative, has long been used for beriberi neuropathy and Wernicke’s encephalopathy. Based on the finding that prosultiamine induces apoptosis in human T lymphotropic virus type-I (HTLV-I)-infected T cells, Nakamura et al conducted a clinical trial of prosultiamine in patients with HTLV-I-associated myelopathy (HAM)/tropical spastic paraparesis (TSP). In this open-label, single arm study enrolling 24 HAM/TSP patients recently published in BMC Medicine, oral prosultiamine (300 mg/day for 12 weeks) was found to be effective by neurological, urological and virological evaluations. Notably, it increased detrusor pressure, bladder capacity and maximum flow rate, and improved detrusor overactivity and detrusor-sphincter dyssynergia. A significant decrease in HTLV-I copy numbers in peripheral blood following the treatment provided a rationale for using the drug. The trial has some limitations, such as the small numbers of participants, the open-label design, the lack of a placebo arm, and the short trial period. Nevertheless, the observation that such a safe, cheap drug may have excellent therapeutic effects on HAM/TSP, a chronic devastating illness occurring mainly in developing countries, provides support for future large-scale randomized controlled trials.Please see related research:

Concepts: Medicine, Virus, Vitamin, Human T-lymphotropic virus, Thiamine, Beriberi, Tropical spastic paraparesis, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome


The characteristics of dementia relating to excessive alcohol use have received increased research interest in recent times. In this paper, the neuropathology, nosology, epidemiology, clinical features, and neuropsychology of alcohol-related dementia (ARD) and alcohol-induced persisting amnestic syndrome (Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, or WKS) are reviewed. Neuropathological and imaging studies suggest that excessive and prolonged use of alcohol may lead to structural and functional damage that is permanent in nature; however, there is debate about the relative contributions of the direct toxic effect of alcohol (neurotoxicity hypothesis), and the impact of thiamine deficiency, to lasting damage. Investigation of alcohol-related cognitive impairment has been further complicated by differing definitions of patterns of alcohol use and associated lifestyle factors related to the abuse of alcohol. Present diagnostic systems identify two main syndromes of alcohol-related cognitive impairment: ARD and WKS. However, ‘alcohol-related brain damage’ is increasingly used as an umbrella term to encompass the heterogeneity of these disorders. It is unclear what level of drinking may pose a risk for the development of brain damage or, in fact, whether lower levels of alcohol may protect against other forms of dementia. Epidemiological studies suggest that individuals with ARD typically have a younger age of onset than those with other forms of dementia, are more likely to be male, and often are socially isolated. The cognitive profile of ARD appears to involve both cortical and subcortical pathology, and deficits are most frequently observed on tasks of visuospatial function as well as memory and higher-order (executive) tasks. The WKS appears more heterogeneous in nature than originally documented, and deficits on executive tasks commonly are reported in conjunction with characteristic memory deficits. Individuals with alcohol-related disorders have the potential to at least partially recover - both structurally and functionally - if abstinence is maintained. In this review, considerations in a clinical setting and recommendations for diagnosis and management are discussed.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Neurology, Syndromes, Alcohol abuse, Psychiatry, Thiamine, Beriberi, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome


Thiamine plays a fundamental role in cellular metabolism. The classical syndrome caused by thiamine deficiency is beriberi, and its fulminant variant, once considered an uncommon finding, is now encountered among the critically ill.We present a case series of four critically ill non-septic non-alcoholic patients with severe lactic acidosis and refractory cardio-circulatory collapse caused by acute fulminant beriberi, which drastically responded to thiamine administration.In critical care settings, increased awareness of this life-threatening but reversible condition is a requirement, especially among patients receiving parenteral nutrition and those with unexplained recalcitrant lactic acidosis.

Concepts: Metabolism, Nutrition, Vitamin, Thiamine, Beriberi, Christiaan Eijkman, Lactic acidosis, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome


Thiamine deficiency is thought to be an issue in Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia due to frequent clinical reports of infantile beriberi. However the extent of this public health issue is currently unknown due to a lack of population-representative data. Therefore we assessed the thiamine status (measured as erythrocyte thiamine diphosphate concentrations; eThDP) among a representative sample of Cambodian women of childbearing age (15-49 y) and their young children (6-69 mo).

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Vitamin, Childhood, Thiamine, Beriberi, Christiaan Eijkman, Cambodia, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome


Korsakoff’s syndrome (KS) is a chronic neuropsychiatric disorder caused by alcohol abuse and thiamine deficiency. Patients with KS show restricted autonomy due to their severe declarative amnesia and executive disorders. Recently, it has been suggested that procedural learning and memory are relatively preserved in KS and can effectively support autonomy in KS. In the present review we describe the available evidence on procedural learning and memory in KS and highlight advances in memory rehabilitation that have been demonstrated to support procedural memory. The specific purpose of this review was to increase insights in the available tools for successful memory rehabilitation and give suggestions how to apply these tools in clinical practice to increase procedural learning in KS. Current evidence suggests that when memory rehabilitation is adjusted to the specific needs of KS patients, this will increase their ability to learn procedures and their typically compromised autonomy gets enhanced.

Concepts: Psychology, Memory, Hippocampus, Neuropsychology, Procedural memory, Declarative memory, Thiamine, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome


Circulatory failure, especially with low systemic vascular resistance (SVR), as observed in septic shock, thyrotoxicosis, and anemia, is a particular pattern that should suggest thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. The clinical picture of wet beriberi secondary to thiamine deficiency only demonstrates non-specific clinical manifestations. For a diagnosis of wet beriberi, medical history is very important. Interestingly, imprisonment was also found to be related to thiamine deficiency. This article presents a rare case of wet beriberi associated with multiple organ failure (MOF) in a prison patient with years of heavy alcohol consumption.

Concepts: Systemic inflammatory response syndrome, Vitamin, Septic shock, Sepsis, Thiamine, Beriberi, Christiaan Eijkman, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome


A 61-year-old man was admitted to our institution with progressive hypoacusia, double vision, and lightheadedness. Neurological examination on day 6 of his illness showed severe hypoacusia, mild confusion, ocular motility disorder, truncal ataxia and absence of a deep tendon reflex. MRI fluid-attenuated inversion recovery imaging revealed symmetrical high intensities in the tectum of the midbrain, involving the bilateral inferior colliculi and the bilateral medial thalami, which suggested Wernicke encephalopathy (WE). Thiamine was administered immediately after completion of the MRI, and the patients' hearing and other abnormal neurologic signs improved rapidly within a few days, except for the absence of the deep tendon reflex. Whole blood examination at admission revealed very low levels of vitamin B1. The patient was discharged on day 19, and MRI on day 39 showed the disappearance of the abnormal high intensities involving the bilateral inferior colliculi. The present case indicates that hypoacusia and abnormal MRI signal due to WE might be normalized by administration of thiamine a few days after the onset of symptoms.

Concepts: Brain, Patient, Vitamin, Neurology, Thiamine, Reflex, Wernicke's encephalopathy, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome


Thiamine/ vitamin B1 deficiency can lead to behavioral changes and neurotoxicity in humans. This may due in part to vascular damage, neuroinflammation and neuronal degeneration in the diencephalon, which is seen in animal models of pyrithiamine-enhanced thiamine deficiency. However, the time course of the progression of these changes in the animal models has been poorly characterized. Therefore, in this study, the progression of: 1) activated microglial association with vasculature; 2) neurodegeneration; and 3) any vascular leakage in the forebrain during the progress of thiamine deficiency were determined. A thiamine deficient diet along with 0.25 mg/ kg/ d of pyrithiamine was used as the mouse model. Vasculature was identified with Cd-31 and microglia with Cd-11b and Iba1 immunoreactivity. Neurodegeneration was determined by FJc labeling. The first sign of activated microglia within the thalamic nuclei were detected after 8 d of thiamine deficiency, and by 9 d activated microglia associated primarily with vasculature were clearly present but only in thalamus. At the 8 d time point neurodegeneration was not present in thalamus. However at 9 d, the first signs of neurodegeneration (FJc+ neurons) were seen in most animals. Over 80% of the microglia were activated at 10 d but almost exclusively in the thalamus and the number of degenerating neurons was less than 10% of the activated microglia. At 10 d, there were sporadic minor changes in IgG presence in thalamus indicating minor vascular leakage. Dizocilpine (0.2 to 0.4 mg/ kg) or phenobarbital (10 to 20 mg/ kg) was administered to groups of mice from day 8 through day 10 to block neurodegeneration but neither did. In summary, activated microglia start to surround vasculature 1 to 2 d prior to the start of neurodegeneration. This response may be a means of controlling or repairing vascular damage and leakage. Glutamate excitotoxicity and vascular leakage likely only play a minor role in the early neurodegeneration resulting from thiamine deficiency. However, failure of dysfunctional vasculature endothelium to supply sufficient nutrients to neurons could be contributing to the neurodegeneration.

Concepts: Brain, Vitamin, Thalamus, Microglia, Thiamine, Beriberi, Christiaan Eijkman, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome


Thiamine is an essential coenzyme for oxidative metabolisms; however, it is not synthesized in the human body, and the average thiamine storage capacity is approximately 18 days. Therefore, thiamine deficiency (TD) can occur in any condition of unbalanced nutrition. If TD is left untreated, it causes the neuropsychiatric disorder Wernicke encephalopathy (WE). Although WE is a medical emergency, it is sometimes overlooked because most patients with WE do not exhibit all of the typical symptoms, including delirium, ataxia, and ophthalmoplegia. If all of the typical clinical symptoms of WE are absent, diagnosis of TD or WE becomes more difficult.

Concepts: Vitamin, Greek loanwords, Neurology, Human body, Psychiatry, Thiamine, Wernicke's encephalopathy, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome


Wet beriberi, characterized by high cardiac output with predominantly right-sided heart failure and lactic acidosis, is a disease caused by thiamine deficiency, and is rarely seen in modern society. However, patients with social withdrawal syndrome, also known as hikikomori syndrome, may be a new population at risk of thiamine deficiency. Hikikomori syndrome, first recognized in Japan, is becoming a worldwide issue. A 39-year-old Japanese patient was brought to our hospital, with a 3-week history of progressive shortness of breath and generalized edema. The patient had right-sided high-output heart failure, lactic acidosis, and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Because of his history of social isolation, we diagnosed hikikomori syndrome according to the Japanese government’s definition, which is as follows: lifestyle centered at home; no interest or willingness to attend school or work; persistence of symptoms beyond 6¬†months; and exclusion of other psychiatric and developmental disorders. Considering his diagnosis of hikikomori syndrome and social isolation, we suspected malnutrition, particularly thiamine deficiency, and successfully treated him. Clinicians should be aware of the potential risk of thiamine deficiency associated with hikikomori syndrome and initiate thiamine replacement in cases of high-output heart failure associated with lactic acidosis.

Concepts: Patient, Heart failure, Sociology, Psychiatry, Thiamine, Beriberi, Government of Japan, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome