Triple retinal infection with human immunodeficiency virus type 1, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex virus type 1. Light and electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and in situ hybridization

Ophthalmology. 1994 Feb;101(2):270-9. doi: 10.1016/s0161-6420(94)31336-4.


Purpose: This report describes the histopathologic and virologic findings of the retina from a 55-year-old bisexual patient with the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), who had concurrent human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) retinitis, and was treated with ganciclovir.

Methods: The eyes were obtained at autopsy and processed for light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. Immunohistochemical stains for HSV-1, CMV, HIV-1, varicella zoster virus, and glial fibrillary acidic protein were carried out using the peroxidase-antiperoxidase and streptavidin-biotin-alkaline phosphatase techniques. For in situ hybridization, a radiolabeled CMV DNA probe (Eco-RI-Y fragment of strain AD 169) was used.

Results: Results of histopathologic examination showed a full-thickness necrotizing retinitis with cytomegalic and herpes viral intranuclear inclusions in cells of the neurosensory retina, retinal vascular endothelium, and the retinal pigment epithelium. Some areas of the retina were replaced by glial tissue. The choroid contained only a few chronic inflammatory cells. Immunoperoxidase studies disclosed CMV antigens diffusely distributed throughout all layers of the retina and the retinal pigment epithelium. Herpes simplex virus type 1 antigens were present in retinal cells and the retinal vascular endothelium. Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 antigens were found in mononuclear cells in all layers of the sensory retina. Dual infections with HIV-1 and CMV of individual multinucleated giant cells of glial origin were demonstrated immunohistochemically. Transmission electron microscopy showed herpes viral particles in the vascular endothelium of the retinal vessels and the choriocapillaris. Human immunodeficiency virus particles were identified in the endothelium of the choriocapillaris.

Conclusions: The possibility of multiple viral infections of the retina, mimicking classic CMV retinitis, should be considered in the clinical and histologic differential diagnosis of necrotizing retinitis in patients with AIDS.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis
  • Cytomegalovirus Retinitis / complications*
  • Cytomegalovirus Retinitis / immunology
  • Cytomegalovirus Retinitis / pathology
  • Cytomegalovirus* / genetics
  • Cytomegalovirus* / immunology
  • Cytomegalovirus* / ultrastructure
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Eye Infections, Viral / complications*
  • Eye Infections, Viral / pathology
  • HIV Antigens / analysis
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV Infections / pathology
  • HIV-1* / genetics
  • HIV-1* / immunology
  • HIV-1* / ultrastructure
  • Herpes Simplex / complications*
  • Herpes Simplex / immunology
  • Herpes Simplex / pathology
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human* / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human* / immunology
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human* / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retina / microbiology
  • Retina / ultrastructure
  • Retinal Diseases / microbiology*
  • Retinal Diseases / pathology


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • DNA, Viral
  • HIV Antigens