Cerebrospinal fluid HIV-1 RNA levels: Correlation with HIV encephalitis

Paola Cinque, Luca Vago, Daniela Ceresa, Franco Mainini, Maria Rosa Terreni, Ambrogio Vagani, Walter Torri, Simona Bossolasco, Adriano Lazzarin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Neuropathological abnormalities induced by HIV-1 are not always predictable on the basis of the presence of HIV-related neurological symptoms. HIV-1 RNA load was measured in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of HIV-infected patients to verify whether it could be a marker of HIV-induced neuropathology. Design and methods: Histopathological and immunohistochemical examination of the brain for HIV-1 p24 antigen was performed in 50 HIV-infected patients with neurological symptoms; patients were defined as having HIV encephalitis in the presence of HIV-related lesions or HIV-1 p24 antigen-positive cells. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction for HIV-1 RNA was retrospectively applied to CSF samples that had been drawn 1-60 days prior to death from these 50 patients; paired plasma samples of 28 patients were also analysed. Results: The CSF HIV-1 RNA copy numbers were significantly higher in 22 patients with HIV encephalitis than in 28 patients without (median, 4.77 log10 versus 3.45 log10 copies/ml; P = 0.0003). No correlation was found between CSF HIV-1 RNA load and the presence of opportunistic brain pathologies at post-mortem examination or between HIV-1 RNA loads in paired CSF and plasma samples. Conclusions: High CSF HIV-1 RNA levels are associated with HIV encephalitis, regardless of the presence of opportunistic brain diseases or HIV-1 RNA levels in plasma. Quantitative CSF HIV-1 RNA may therefore be used as a specific marker of HIV-induced neuropathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-394
Number of pages6
JournalAIDS (London, England)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 5 1998


  • Brain
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Encephalitis
  • HIV-1
  • Polymerase chain reaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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