RESEARCHERS STUDY THE BRAIN AS A VIRAL SANCTUARY FOR THE HIV VIRUS
-- Satellite Symposium to Discuss Treatment Implications --
TORONTO, September 27, 1997 -- HIV-related dementia and other
neurological disorders may be driven by uncontrolled viral replication
occuring in the brain and spinal cord area, said AIDS experts today
at the 37th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and
Justin McArthur, M.D., professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins
University and one of six distinguished researchers here at the
symposium, examined the relationship between virus levels in the
fluid surrounding the brain known as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and
severity of AIDS-related dementia in 207 HIV-positive patients. Dr.
McArthur found that virus levels in the CSF were significantly higher
among those patients clinically diagnosed with HIV dementia, suggesting
that HIV found in the CSF has a direct role in AIDS-related dementia.
"Fifteen to twenty percent of individuals with AIDS experience
HIV-associated dementia. These numbers may have declined in today's
era of highly active antiretroviral therapy, however, since only
a few available antiretrovirals penetrate the CNS adequately, the
role of the brain as a sanctuary for HIV replication is becoming
increasingly important," remarked Dr. McArthur.
HIV penetration of the central nervous system (CNS) - the brain and
spinal cord - is frequent, sometimes occurring before the development
of opportunistic infections and AIDS. According to 1994 CDC AIDS
surveillance data, CNS complications made up 6,419 or eight percent
of all AIDS-defining diseases in the 79,674 patients diagnosed with
"Our hope is that by establishing markers for AIDS-related disease
progression in the brain we will be able to better identify patients
at risk for dementia and the therapies that may help prevent or
reverse it," commented Dr. McArthur.
HIV-associated dementia is a brain disorder that affects an
individual's ability to function in a social or occupational setting.
Researchers believe that dementia may result from HIV infection of
nerve cells in the brain. If untreated, dementia progresses quickly,
with some patients surviving six months or less.
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