Spinal cord and peripheral nerve pathology in AIDS: The roles of cytomegalovirus and human immunodeficiency virus

Marjorie R. Grafe, Clayton A. Wiley

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We examined spinal cords, nerve roots, or peripheral nerves of 27 patients who died with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) for the presence of cytomegalovirus (CMV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) by immunoperoxidase techniques in paraffin‐embedded tissue. Vacuolar myelopathy was seen in 8 of 26 spinal cords (31%) and microglial nodules were seen in 13 (50%). All of the patients with lateral column vacuolar myelopathy showed severe brain pathology. HIV antigens had been detected in the brains of 15 (55%) of the 27 patients but were detected in only 3 (11%) of 26 spinal cords and were not localized to regions of vacuolar myelopathy. This suggests that the vacuolar myelopathy may be due to a remote or indirect effect of HIV or other infectious agent. CMV antigens were detected in none of the patients who showed vacuolar myelopathy but were detected in 2 of the 13 with microglial nodules. Focal nerve root or peripheral nerve inflammation was seen in 7 patients; 4 had CMV antigens and none had HIV antigens. CMV appears to be an important cause of inflammatory peripheral neuropathy in AIDS patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-566
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Neurology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1989


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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