Immunopathogenesis of HIV encephalitis

Brain Pathol. 1991 Apr;1(3):177-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3639.1991.tb00657.x.


HIV infection leads to severe immunosuppression and in a sub-population of patients, encephalitis. Whether systemic immunosuppression is required for CNS infection is still unclear. However, latent infection of monocytes/macrophages is an important mechanism by which HIV escapes immune surveillance and enters the CNS. Unlike other viral encephalitides, HIV predominantly infects macrophages/microglia and not neurons and glia. These cells produce retroviral proteins and cytokines which may be neurotoxic. Despite significant MHC expression within the CNS, there is a limited infiltration of immune cells, possibly due to a defect in systemic immunity. Anti-retroviral therapy by decreasing viral replication and reversing immunosuppression, may arrest nervous system damage.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Movement
  • Central Nervous System / immunology
  • Central Nervous System / microbiology
  • Cytopathogenic Effect, Viral
  • Encephalitis / immunology
  • Encephalitis / microbiology*
  • Encephalitis / pathology
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV Infections / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • JC Virus
  • Macrophages / microbiology
  • Meningitis, Aseptic / immunology
  • Meningitis, Aseptic / microbiology
  • Monocytes / microbiology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / immunology
  • Poliomyelitis / immunology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / immunology