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November 7, 1986

Human T-Cell Lymphotropic Virus Type III Infection of the Central Nervous System: A Preliminary In Situ Analysis

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (Drs Stoler and Eskin), Pediatrics (Dr Benn), and Biology (Drs R. and L. Angerer), University of Rochester (NY).

JAMA. 1986;256(17):2360-2364. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380170076022

Patients with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) are subject to a spectrum of central nervous system (CNS) disorders. Recent evidence implicates the human T-cell lymphotropic virus type III (HTLV-III) in the pathogenesis of some of these illnesses, although the cells infected by the virus have yet to be identified. Using in situ hybridization, we examined brain tissue from two patients with AIDS encephalopathy for the presence of HTLV-III RNA. In both cases, viral RNA was detected and concentrated in, though not limited to, the white matter. The CNS cells most frequently infected included macrophages, pleomorphic microglia, and multinucleated giant cells. Less frequently, cells morphologically consistent with astrocytes, oligodendroglia, and rarely neurons were also infected. The findings strengthen the association of HTLV-III with the pathogenesis of AIDS encephalopathy. In situ hybridization can be applied to routinely prepared biopsy tissue in the diagnosis of HTLV-III infection of the CNS.

(JAMA 1986;256:2360-2364)