Tuberculous meningitis in patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus

N Engl J Med. 1992 Mar 5;326(10):668-72. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199203053261004.


Background and methods: Tuberculosis is a frequent complication of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. We describe the clinical manifestations and outcomes of tuberculous meningitis in patients with HIV infection, and compare them with those in non-HIV-infected patients. We reviewed the records from 1985 through 1990 at two large referral hospitals in Madrid for patients who had Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolated from cerebrospinal fluid.

Results: Of 2205 patients with tuberculosis, 455 (21 percent) also had HIV infection, of whom 45 had M. tuberculosis isolated from the cerebrospinal fluid. Of the 37 HIV-infected patients with tuberculous meningitis for whom records were available, 24 (65 percent) had clinical or radiologic evidence of extrameningeal tuberculosis at the time of admission. In 18 of 26 patients (69 percent), a CT scan of the head was abnormal. In most patients, analysis of cerebrospinal fluid showed pleocytosis (median white-cell count, 0.234 x 10(9) per liter) and hypoglycorrhachia (median glucose level, 1.3 mmol per liter), but in 43 percent (15 of 35), the level of protein in cerebrospinal fluid was normal. In four patients with HIV infection, tuberculosis was only discovered after their deaths. Of the 33 patients who received antituberculous treatment, 7 died (in-hospital mortality, 21 percent). Illness lasting more than 14 days before admission and a CD4+ cell count of less than 0.2 x 10(9) per liter (200 per cubic millimeter) were associated with a poor prognosis. Comparison with tuberculous meningitis in patients without HIV infection showed that the presentation, clinical manifestations, cerebrospinal fluid findings, and mortality were generally similar in the two groups. However, of the 1750 patients without HIV infection, only 2 percent (38 patients) had tuberculous meningitis, as compared with 10 percent of the HIV-infected patients (P less than 0.001).

Conclusions: HIV-infected patients with tuberculosis are at increased risk for meningitis, but infection with HIV does not appear to change the clinical manifestations or the outcome of tuberculous meningitis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / complications*
  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / microbiology
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Proteins / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / isolation & purification
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Tuberculosis, Meningeal / complications*
  • Tuberculosis, Meningeal / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Meningeal / microbiology


  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Proteins