Objective: HIV-1 encephalopathy (HIVE) is associated with high levels of viral RNA in the central nervous system (CNS). Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) effectively reduces HIV replication in both plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Some individuals, however, exhibit delayed CSF HIV RNA suppression in the presence of rapid plasma responses. We investigated the reasons for this discrepancy.
Design: CSF and plasma were collected prospectively in paired samples before and once or several times during HAART in 40 HIV-positive subjects. Ten had HIVE and 30 patients were neurologically asymptomatic or had non-HIVE neurological manifestations.
Methods: The slopes of viral RNA decay during HAART were compared between the compartments. The presence of HIVE was defined by clinical standards and its severity categorized according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering score. CSF and plasma levels of antiretroviral drugs were measured. Viral drug resistance during HAART in CSF and plasma was analysed both genotypically and phenotypically.
Results: Slow CSF viral decay and a high degree of compartmental discordance (slopeCSF/slopeplasma) were both significantly correlated with HIVE (P < 0.00002). There was no correlation of a rapid CSF response with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stage, CD4 cell count, or with the number of antiretroviral compounds and their known CSF penetration. Slow CSF viral decay was associated with neither low levels of antiretroviral drugs in the CSF or plasma, nor with viral drug resistance.
Conclusions: None of the treatment-associated variables, but only the presence of HIVE, was associated with delayed virus elimination during HAART in the CSF. This suggests a distinct pattern of viral replication in the CNS in HIVE.
From the Neurological Department, University Hospital Hamburg, Germany, aVirco N.V., Central Virological Laboratory, Mechelen, Belgium, and the bDepartment of Medicine, University Hospital Hamburg, Germany.
Correspondence to C. Eggers, Neurological Department, University Hospital Hamburg, Martinistraße 52, D-20246 Hamburg, Germany. E-mail: email@example.com
Note: Presented at the Eighth Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections. Chicago, February 2001 [abstract 1].
Received: 1 August 2002; revised: 8 January 2003; accepted: 12 March 2003.