OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to evaluate the expression of nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of children with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-induced meningoencephalitis (ME) in order to establish a possible correlation with laboratory findings and neurological manifestations. METHODS: A prospective observational clinical study was performed on 10 children with viral ME, five of them with EBV-induced ME. As controls, we used CSF samples collected from children admitted with febrile seizures. Neurotrophin levels were measured using an enzyme immunoassay. RESULTS: Significantly higher levels of BDNF and NGF were detected in all patients with viral ME compared to controls. Moreover, in patients with EBV-induced ME, the neurotrophin levels were higher than in those with other viral ME. Of note, in children with EBV-induced ME, we found a significant correlation between neurotrophic factor levels and the number of lymphocytes in the CSF (p<0.001). In these patients we also found a significant correlation between BDNF expression and the blood platelet count (p<0.001). Interestingly, two patients with EBV-induced ME showed a correlation between neurotrophin increase and persistent brain abnormalities, such as prolonged alteration of mental status, psychomotor agitation, and athetosis. CONCLUSIONS: Viral ME induces an early and strong increased biosynthesis of neurotrophic factors. This neurotrophin over-expression is likely to play a key role in the mechanisms of neuronal inflammation and in the severity of brain damage, particularly in EBV-induced ME.