Reduction of glutamate levels in HIV-infected subjects treated with acetylcarnitine

J NeuroAIDS. 1999;2(2):65-73. doi: 10.1300/J128v02n02_07.


The excitotoxic amino acid glutamate, which is elevated in blood and cerebrospinal fluid from subjects with AIDS dementia complex, is crucially implicated in the neurotoxicity of HIV infection. We describe a subject with AIDS dementia complex who showed a significant motor and cognitive improvement after a course of intravenous acetylcarnitine therapy. The clinical improvement was paralleled by a significant reduction of glutamate concentrations in both blood and cerebrospinal fluid. A prospective pilot study confirmed that acetylcarnitine administration resulted indeed to reduce the blood levels of glutamate in AIDS patients treated with acetylcarnitine therapy in order to prevent the neurotoxicity of nucleoside analogs. Even though the mechanisms responsible for the reduction of glutamate concentrations remain to be established, we suggest that acetylcarnitine should be added to the list of drugs under investigation for the treatment of AIDS dementia complex. The anti-apoptotic activity of carnitines and their safety profile further support this view.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Arteritis, Central Nervous System / prevention & control*
  • AIDS Dementia Complex / drug therapy*
  • Acetylcarnitine / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Female
  • Glutamic Acid / blood
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nootropic Agents / therapeutic use


  • Nootropic Agents
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Acetylcarnitine