Molecular diagnosis of central nervous system opportunistic infections in HIV-infected zambian adults

Omar K. Siddiqi*, Musie Ghebremichael, Xin Dang, Masharip Atadzhanov, Patrick Kaonga, Michael N. Khoury, Igor J. Koralnik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Background. Knowledge of central nervous system (CNS) opportunistic infections (OIs) among people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in sub-Saharan Africa is limited.Methods. We analyzed 1 cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) sample from each of 331 HIV-infected adults with symptoms suggestive of CNS OI at a tertiary care center in Zambia. We used pathogen-specific primers to detect DNA from JC virus (JCV), varicella zoster virus (VZV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), herpes simplex virus (HSV) types 1 and 2, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Toxoplasma gondii via real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR).Results. The patients' median CD4+ T-cell count was 89 cells/μL (interquartile range, 38-191 cells/μL). Of 331 CSF samples, 189 (57.1%) had at least 1 pathogen. PCR detected DNA from EBV in 91 (27.5%) patients, M. tuberculosis in 48 (14.5%), JCV in 20 (6.0%), CMV in 20 (6.0%), VZV in 13 (3.9%), HSV-1 in 5 (1.5%), and HSV-2 and T. gondii in none. Fungal and bacteriological studies showed Cryptococcus in 64 (19.5%) patients, pneumococcus in 8 (2.4%), and meningococcus in 2 (0.6%). Multiple pathogens were found in 68 of 189 (36.0%) samples. One hundred seventeen of 331 (35.3%) inpatients died during their hospitalization. Men were older than women (median, 37 vs 34 years; P =. 01), more recently diagnosed with HIV (median, 30 vs 63 days; P =. 03), and tended to have a higher mortality rate (40.2% vs 30.2%; P =. 07).Conclusions. CNS OIs are frequent, potentially treatable complications of AIDS in Zambia. Multiple pathogens often coexist in CSF. EBV is the most prevalent CNS organism in isolation and in coinfection. Whether it is associated with CNS disease or a marker of inflammation requires further investigation. More comprehensive testing for CNS pathogens could improve treatment and patient outcomes in Zambia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1771-1777
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2014


  • HIV
  • PCR
  • Zambia
  • cerebrospinal fluid
  • opportunistic infections

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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