A variety of diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system evolves during the course of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections. Most are not related to documented opportunistic infections and may be the direct result of HIV infections, as large proportions of healthy and ill HIV-infected persons show evidence of nervous system infection. These diseases occur at different times during the infection and have diverse inflammatory, demyelinating, or degenerative pathological features that suggest different pathogenetic mechanisms. The route and determinants of HIV invasion of the nervous system are unknown. Within the brain, viral antigen and RNA are found predominantly in macrophages, but the reason why profound dementia and cortical atrophy result from this infection remains a mystery. By analogy to other lentivirus infections, particularly visna virus in sheep, neuropathological changes may be mediated by cytokines. Other possible pathogenetic mechanisms include toxicity of viral polypeptides, transactivation of viral or cellular genes, autoimmunity, or other opportunistic infections. Clarification of the pathogenesis of HIV-related diseases is critical to the design of rational therapies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology