Reye’s syndrome


Reye’s syndrome is a disease characterized by:

  1. vomiting
  2. encephalopathy (disease of the brain)
  3. mental impairment
  4. personality changes
  5. deterioration of consciousness
  6. irritability, delirium and coma may accompany mental deterioration
  7. fatty degeneration of the liver

The disease usually presents after infection with varicella or influenza virus. Studies have demonstrated a strong epidemiologic association between the ingestion of aspirin during antecedent varicella or influenza-like illnesses and the subsequent development of Reye’s syndrome. The vast majority of cases present in children.


metabolic tests for:

  • hyperammonemia
  • elevated levels of alanine aminotransferase
  • aspartate aminotransferase

distinguishing test:

  • an electron micrograph
  • ultrastructural changes in liver tissue
  • specifically the proliferation of smooth endoplasmic reticulum and peroxisomes 
  • the presence of enlarged and pleomorphic mitochondria with loss of dense granules


  • Reye’s syndrome is potentially fatal
  • The recovery of adults with the syndrome is generally complete, with liver and brain function returning to normal within two weeks of the illness
  • In children, mild to severe permanent brain damage is possible, especially in infants


Ermias D., Bresee,Joseph S., Holman, Robert C, Khan, Ali S., Shahriari, Abtin, and Schonberger, Lawrence B. 1999. Reye’s Syndrome in the United States from 1981 through 1997. New England Journal of Medicine. 340 (18) :1377-1382.