, Volume 109, Issue 4, pp 449-455
Date: 01 Mar 2005

Fulminant inflammatory leukoencephalopathy associated with HAART-induced immune restoration in AIDS-related progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy

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HAART-induced immune restoration is beneficial for patients with AIDS-related progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). However, in rare instances, an immune-reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS) may cause paradoxical clinical deterioration. We report the neuropathological study of an AIDS patient who presented with progressive cognitive deterioration; CD4+ count was 117 and the HIV viral load >104; imaging showed non-enhancing lesions consistent with PML. Following initiation of HAART, CD4+ was 300 and HIV viral load <103, but his neurological symptoms continued to deteriorate. Imaging revealed an increase in the size and number of lesions and enhancement of all the lesions. A stereotactic biopsy showed severe inflammatory and demyelinating lesions with marked infiltration by macrophages and T lymphocytes in the absence of a detectable infectious agent. Despite high doses of steroids, the patient died 3 months after admission. Autopsy showed two types of lesions: (1) active inflammatory PML changes with abundant JC virus, and intraparenchymal and perivascular infiltration by T lymphocytes, and (2) acute perivenous leukoencephalitis devoid of JC virus. Most lymphocytes were CD8+ lymphocytes; CD4+ lymphocytes were virtually absent. Two pathological reactions were associated with the paradoxical clinical deterioration related to dysregulation of the immune response characteristic of IRIS in PML: (1) an accentuation of JCV infection, and (2) a nonspecific acute perivenous leukoencephalitis. We suggest that both these types of lesions are due to an imbalance of CD8+/CD4+ T cells, with massive infiltration of the cerebral parenchyma by CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes in the absence of sufficient CD4+ response. Better understanding of the mechanisms of the IRIS may enable prevention or cure of this severe, sometimes fatal complication of HAART.