Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection of the nervous system: A review

J. Michaels, L. R. Sharer, L. G. Epstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Human immunodeficiency virus type I(HIV-1) is associated with a spectrum of neurological disorders. At the time of primary HIV-1 infection, an acute aseptic meningitis or encephalitis indicates central nervous system invasion. Evidence of HIV-1 infection is found in the CSF of most asymptomatic seropositive individuals, suggesting viral persistence in the nervous system. After a long incubation period, viral activation is signaled by expression of HIV-1 antigen in the CSF, which correlates with a profound dementia in adults or with an analogous progressive encephalopathy in children. The neuropathological substrate of this dementing process consists of multinucleated giant cells and diffuse white matter pallor. Immunocytochemical and in situ hybridization studies demonstrate that antigen presenting cells, including blood derived macrophages and resident brain microglia, are directly infected by HIV-1, and participate in the formation of the syncytial giant cells. Astrocytes and endothelial cells may also be infected, but evidence for infection of oligodendroglia and neurons is lacking. Studies of lentiviral encephalitides in ungulates and non-human primates emphasize the importance of specific viral antigenic stimulation and the role of inflammatory cells as direct or indirect mediators of tissue damage. The disorders of the peripheral nervous system described in patients with HIV-1 infection have not been convincingly linked to direct viral infection. At least two of the neuromuscular complications, the inflammatory motor neuropathy and polymyositis are likely to have an autoimmune pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-104
Number of pages34
JournalImmunodeficiency Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology


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