Virus vasculopathy and stroke: an under-recognized cause and treatment target

Infect Disord Drug Targets. 2010 Apr;10(2):105-11. doi: 10.2174/187152610790963537.


While arteriosclerotic disease and hypertension, with or without diabetes, are the most common causes of stroke, viruses may also produce transient ischemic attacks and stroke. The three most-well studied viruses in this respect are varicella zoster virus (VZV), cytomegalovirus (CMV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), all of which are potentially treatable with antiviral agents. Productive VZV infection in cerebral arteries after reactivation (zoster) or primary infection (varicella) has been documented as a cause of ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, aneurysms with subarachnoid and intracerebral hemorrhage, arterial ectasia and as a co-factor in cerebral arterial dissection. CMV has been suggested to play a role in the pathogenesis of arteriosclerotic plaques in cerebral arteries. HIV patients have a small but definite increased incidence of stroke which may be due to either HIV infection or opportunistic VZV infection in these immunocompromised individuals. Importantly, many described cases of vasculopathy in HIV-infected patients were not studied for the presence of anti-VZV IgG antibody in CSF, a sensitive indicator of VZV vasculopathy. Unlike the well-documented role of VZV in vasculopathy, evidence for a causal link between HIV or CMV and stroke remains indirect and awaits further studies demonstrating productive HIV and CMV infection of cerebral arteries in stroke patients. Nonetheless, all three viruses have been implicated in stroke and should be considered in clinical diagnoses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Stroke / etiology*
  • Stroke / therapy
  • Vascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Vascular Diseases / pathology
  • Vascular Diseases / therapy
  • Vascular Diseases / virology
  • Virus Diseases / complications*
  • Virus Diseases / diagnosis
  • Virus Diseases / pathology
  • Virus Diseases / therapy