Cerebrospinal fluid neopterin: an informative biomarker of central nervous system immune activation in HIV-1 infection

AIDS Res Ther. 2010 Jun 3;7:15. doi: 10.1186/1742-6405-7-15.


HIV-1 invades the central nervous system (CNS) in the context of acute infection, persists thereafter in the absence of treatment, and leads to chronic intrathecal immunoactivation that can be measured by the macrophage activation marker, neopterin, in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). In this review we describe our experience with CSF neopterin measurements in 382 untreated HIV-infected patients across the spectrum of immunosuppression and HIV-related neurological diseases, in 73 untreated AIDS patients with opportunistic CNS infections, and in 233 treated patients.In untreated patients, CSF neopterin concentrations are almost always elevated and increase progressively as immunosuppression worsens and blood CD4 cell counts fall. However, patients with HIV dementia exhibit particularly high CSF neopterin concentrations, above those of patients without neurological disease, though patients with CNS opportunistic infections, including CMV encephalitis and cryptococcal meningitis, also exhibit high levels of CSF neopterin. Combination antiretroviral therapy, with its potent effect on CNS HIV infection and CSF HIV RNA, mitigates both intrathecal immunoactivation and lowers CSF neopterin. However, despite suppression of plasma and CSF HIV RNA to below the detection limits of clinical assays (<50 copies HIV RNA/mL), CSF neopterin often remains mildly elevated, indicating persistent low-level intrathecal immune activation and raising the important questions of whether this elevation is driven by continued CNS infection and whether it causes continued indolent CNS injury.Although nonspecific, CSF neopterin can serve as a useful biomarker in the diagnosis of HIV dementia in the setting of confounding conditions, in monitoring the CNS inflammatory effects of antiretroviral treatment, and give valuable information to the cause of ongoing brain injury.