Purpose: Necrotizing herpetic retinopathies (NHR), a new spectrum of diseases induced by viruses of the herpes family (herpes simplex virus, varicella-zoster virus and cytomegalovirus), includes acute retinal necrosis (ARN) occurring in apparently immunocompetent patients and progressive outer retinal necrosis (PORN) described in severely immuno-compromised patients. Signs of impaired cellular immunity were seen in 16% of ARN patients in a review of 216 reported cases, indicating that immune dysfunction is not only at the origin of PORN but might also be at the origin of ARN. The aim of this study was to correlate clinical findings in NHR patients with their immunologic parameters.
Methods: Charts from patients with the diagnosis of ARN or PORN seen from 1990 to 1995 were reviewed. Clinical characteristics and disease patterns were correlated with immunological parameters taking into account CD4 lymphocyte rate in AIDS patients and blood-lymphocyte subpopulation determination by flow cytometry, cutaneous delayed type hypersensitivity testing and lymphocytic proliferation rate to seven antigens in HIV-negative patients.
Results: During the period considered, 11 patients and 7 patients fulfilled the criteria of ARN and PORN respectively. Immune dysfunctions were identified in most patients. Mild type of ARN and classical ARN were associated with discrete immune dysfunctions, ARN with features of PORN was seen in more immunodepressed patients and classical PORN was always seen in severely immunodepressed HIV patients.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that NHR is a continuous spectrum of diseases induced by herpes viruses, whose clinical expression depends on the immune state of the host going from mild or classical ARN at one end in patients with non-detectable or slight immune dysfunction to PORN in severely immunodepressed patients at the other end and with intermediary forms between these extremes.