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July 1996

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome—Associated Herpes Simplex Virus RetinitisClinical Description and Use of a Polymerase Chain Reaction—Based Assay as a Diagnostic Tool

Arch Ophthalmol. 1996;114(7):834-840. doi:10.1001/archopht.1996.01100140048006

Objectives:  To describe 2 patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome who experienced a rapidly progressive, bilateral retinitis due to herpes simplex virus (HSV) (1 case due to HSV type 1 [HSV-1] and 1 case due to HSV type 2 [HSV-2]) and to present a novel diagnostic polymerase chain reaction (PCR)—based assay.

Methods:  The presentation, clinical course, and diagnostic PCR-based assay used to make the diagnosis of HSV retinitis in 2 patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome are described.

Results:  Both patients experienced a rapidly progressive, bilateral retinal necrosis associated with intraretinal hemorrhages and a diffuse vasculitis. The PCR-based assays demonstrated HSV DNA in the vitreous specimens from the 2 patients. Restriction analysis on the amplified DNA showed HSV-1 in 1 patient and HSV-2 in the second patient. The diagnosis was supported in both patients by the occurrence of a herpes simplexlike encephalitis, and in 1 patient by a positive vitreous culture. The HSV-1—associated vasculitis affected primarily the retinal arterioles, with marked capillary dropout and occlusion of larger arcade vessels. In contrast, the HSV-2—associated vasculitis affected the retinal veins more than the arterioles, and was associated with an exudative retinal detachment.

Conclusions:  To our knowledge, these are the first 2 patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome in whom HSV has been implicated as the sole cause of a rapidly progressing, necrotizing retinitis. Combined PCR and restriction analysis of vitreous samples from such patients is a useful and highly specific means of diagnosing HSV-1 and HSV-2 retinitis.