CONTEXT: HIV-1 is a neurotropic virus. In a resource-limited country such as India, large populations of affected patients now have access to adequate chemoprophylaxis for opportunistic infections (OIs), allowing them to live longer. Unfortunately the poor availability of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has allowed viral replication to proceed unchecked. This has resulted in an increase in the debilitating neurologic manifestations directly mediated by the virus. OBJECTIVE: The main objective of this study was to identify and describe in detail the direct neurologic manifestations of HIV-1 in antiretroviral treatment (ART)-naive, HIV-infected patients (excluding the neurologic manifestations produced by opportunistic pathogens). DESIGN: Three hundred successive cases of HIV-1 infected, ART-naive patients with neurologic manifestations were studied over a 3-year period. Each case was studied in detail to identify and then exclude manifestations due to opportunistic pathogens. The remaining cases were then analyzed specially in regard to their occurrence and the degree of immune suppression (CD4+ cell counts). SETTINGS AND PATIENTS: The study was carried out in an apex, tertiary, referral care center for HIV/AIDS in India. All patients were admitted for a detailed analysis. No interventions were carried out, as this was an observational study. RESULTS: Of the 300 cases, 67 (22.3%) had neurologic manifestations due to the direct effects of HIV-1. The HIV infection involved the neuroaxis at all levels. The distribution of cases showed that the region most commonly involved was the brain (50.7%). The manifestations included stroke syndromes (29.8%), demyelinating illnesses (5.9%), AIDS dementia complex (5.9%), and venous sinus thrombosis (4.4%). The other manifestations seen were peripheral neuropathies (35.8% of cases), spinal cord pathologies (5.9% of cases), radiculopathies (4.4% of cases), and a single case of myopathy. The onset of occurrence of these diseases and their progression were then correlated with the CD4+ cell counts. CONCLUSIONS: HIV infection is responsible for a large number of nonopportunistic neurologic manifestations that occur across a large immune spectrum. During the early course of the disease, the polyclonal hypergammaglobulinemia induced by the virus results in demyelinating diseases of the central- and peripheral nervous systems (CNS and PNS). As the HIV infection progresses, the direct toxic effects of the virus unfold, directly damaging the CNS and PNS, resulting in protean clinical manifestations.
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