Isolation of HTLV-III from cerebrospinal fluid and neural tissues of patients with neurologic syndromes related to the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome

N Engl J Med. 1985 Dec 12;313(24):1493-7. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198512123132401.


We conducted virus-isolation studies on 56 specimens from the nervous system of 45 patients in order to determine whether human T-cell lymphotropic virus Type III (HTLV-III) is directly involved in the pathogenesis of the neurologic disorders frequently encountered in the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and the AIDS-related complex. We recovered HTLV-III from at least one specimen from 24 of 33 patients with AIDS-related neurologic syndromes. In one patient, HTLV-III was isolated from the cerebrospinal fluid during acute aseptic meningitis associated with HTLV-III seroconversion. HTLV-III was also isolated from cerebrospinal fluid from six of seven patients with AIDS or its related complex and unexplained chronic meningitis. In addition, of 16 patients with AIDS-related dementia, 10 had positive cultures for HTLV-III in cerebrospinal fluid, brain tissue, or both. Furthermore, we cultured HTLV-III from the spinal cord of a patient with myelopathy and from the sural nerve of a patient with peripheral neuropathy. These findings suggest that HTLV-III is neurotropic, is capable of causing acute meningitis, is responsible for AIDS-related chronic meningitis and dementia, and may be the cause of the spinal-cord degeneration and peripheral neuropathy in AIDS and AIDS-related complex.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / microbiology*
  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / immunology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Deltaretrovirus / isolation & purification*
  • Dementia / etiology
  • Homosexuality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meningitis / microbiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Tissue / microbiology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / complications
  • Nervous System Diseases / microbiology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / microbiology
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / microbiology
  • Syndrome