, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 207-212

Thiamine deficiency and wernicke's encephalopathy in AIDS

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Several neuropathological reports in the last 5 years have described brain lesions characteristic of Wernicke's Encephalopathy in patients with AIDS. Using the erythrocyte transketolase activation assay, we now report biochemical evidence of thiamine deficiency in 9/39 (23%) of patients with AIDS or AIDS-related complex. In no cases was there history of alcohol abuse nor were there clinical signs of Wernicke's Encephalopathy. Thiamine deficiency in these patients most likely results from the cachexia and catabolic state characteristic of AIDS. In view of (i) the confirmed neuropathological evidence of Wernicke's Encephalopathy in AIDS patients, (ii) the significant thiamine deficiency in these patients and (iii) the difficulties of clinical diagnosis of Wernicke's Encephalopathy, it is recommended that dietary thiamine supplementation be initiated in all newly diagnosed cases of AIDS or AIDS-related complex.