Mollaret’s meningitis is a rare form of aseptic meningitis. It’s also known as benign recurrent aseptic meningitis, benign recurrent lymphocytic meningitis, and idiopathic recurrent meningitis.
Although there are anecdotes linking Mollaret’s to COVID-19 vaccination, there’s no research to suggest that receiving the vaccine puts you at an increased risk of developing Mollaret’s.
This article explores what we know about this illness, including causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
Meningitis occurs when the meninges are inflamed or swollen. The meninges consist of three layers of membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord.
Meningitis is often due to an infection. Aseptic meningitis is a catch-all term that refers to cases of meningitis caused by viruses, fungi, parasites, medications, and cancer.
Mollaret’s meningitis is a rare type of aseptic meningitis that’s most often due to herpes simplex virus type-2 (HSV-2). It’s usually recurrent, which means that symptoms may appear suddenly, resolve, and can reappear again later.
Even though Mollaret’s meningitis is often related to having a history of HSV-2, it’s usually not contagious and not related to an active infection.
Can I get Mollaret’s meningitis from the COVID-19 vaccine?
A few case reports of aseptic meningitis following COVID-19 vaccination date from 2021 (1,
None of the reports refer specifically to Mollaret’s meningitis, and all cases were completely resolved with treatment.
The authors of the reports listed above emphasized that aseptic meningitis after COVID-19 vaccination is rare.
Symptoms of Mollaret’s meningitis are similar to other forms of meningitis, but are usually milder and go away on their own within a week or so. These may include:
Mollaret’s meningitis doesn’t appear to cause long-term complications or side effects.
Similarly, the authors of a 2020 case study of Mollaret’s in a 30-year-old female didn’t identify any long-term effects. They stated that most of the time, symptoms resolve without neurological complications.
With that said, larger-scale studies are needed to confirm the lack of complications.
To diagnose Mollaret’s meningitis, your doctor might ask you to describe your symptoms and medical history. They’ll then conduct a physical exam.
When doctors suspect meningitis, they commonly use a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to identify whether the cause is bacterial or aseptic. This procedure involves extracting a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid from your spine and analyzing protein, glucose, and red and white blood cell levels, in addition to a bacterial culture.
Your doctor might also order additional diagnostic tests, including urine, blood, and imaging tests, to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. A positive PCR test for HSV-2 can sometimes confirm a diagnosis of Mollaret’s meningitis.
There’s no standard treatment for Mollaret’s meningitis.
But your doctor may prescribe antivirals anyway. The symptoms of Mollaret’s meningitis can sometimes resemble other, more serious conditions, such as encephalitis.
Mollaret’s meningitis is extremely rare. Although it has been linked to HSV-2, only a tiny fraction of people who have HSV-2 will develop Mollaret’s meningitis.
It’s not clear whether there are other risk factors linked to the development of Mollaret’s. Without additional research, there’s no known way to prevent it.
Does Mollaret’s meningitis go away?
In all of the case reports described in this article, Mollaret’s went away on its own. A 2022 case report and literature review notes that symptoms of Mollaret’s last 5 to 7 days.
Is Mollaret’s meningitis contagious?
Mollaret’s meningitis is not contagious.
With that said, it’s often linked to HSV-2 or other viral infections. HSV-2 spreads via sexual contact with someone who’s HSV-2 positive.
Being HSV-2 positive doesn’t mean you’ll develop Mollaret’s or another type of meningitis. These complications are rare.
Is there a vaccine to protect against HSV-2?
A vaccine for HSV-2 is currently under development. If you’re HSV-2 positive, medications are available to reduce your risk of passing the virus to others.
HSV-2 isn’t the only virus that can cause Mollaret’s. Other viruses that have been linked to Mollaret’s include:
Mollaret’s meningitis is a rare, recurring form of aseptic meningitis. Its symptoms include fever and headache.
It can be difficult to diagnose since symptoms may resemble other conditions. It usually goes away on its own without treatment, but may reoccur weeks or months later.
There’s no clear link between COVID-19 vaccination and Mollaret’s, although there are a handful of reports of aseptic meningitis following COVID-19 vaccination. This rare but possible complication is treatable with antiviral medication.