Background: Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and neuroimaging abnormalities demonstrate neuronal injury during chronic AIDS, but data on these biomarkers during primary human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is limited.
Methods: We compared CSF concentrations of neurofilament light chain, t-tau, p-tau, amyloid precursor proteins, and amyloid-beta 42 in 92 subjects with primary HIV infection and 25 controls. We examined relationships with disease progression and neuroinflammation, neuropsychological testing, and proton-magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)-based metabolites.
Results: Neurofilament light chain was elevated in primary HIV infection compared with controls (P = .0004) and correlated with CSF neopterin (r = 0.38; P = .0005), interferon gamma-induced protein 10 (r = 0.39; P = .002), white blood cells (r = 0.32; P = .004), protein (r = 0.59; P < .0001), and CSF/plasma albumin ratio (r = 0.60; P < .0001). Neurofilament light chain correlated with decreased N-acteylaspartate/creatine and glutamate/creatine in the anterior cingulate (r = -0.35, P = .02; r = -0.40, P = .009, respectively), frontal white matter (r = -0.43, P = .003; r = -0.30, P = .048, respectively), and parietal gray matter (r = -0.43, P = .003; r = -0.47, P = .001, respectively). Beta-amyloid was elevated in the primary infection group (P = .0005) and correlated with time infected (r = 0.34; P = .003). Neither marker correlated with neuropsychological abnormalities. T-tau and soluble amyloid precursor proteins did not differ between groups.
Conclusions: Elevated neurofilament light chain and its correlation with MRS-based metabolites suggest early neuronal injury in a subset of participants with primary HIV infection through mechanisms involving central nervous system inflammation.