Objective: To study the spectrum of neuropathological brain lesions in HIV/AIDS cases.
Design: Retrospective autopsy study between 1988 and mid-1996 at a tertiary level public hospital.
Methods: Eighty-five adult brains, with at least 21 sections from each, were examined using routine and special stains.
Results: Risk factors in 64 men (75%) and 21 women (25%) included heterosexual contact with multiple sexual partners (83 cases, 98%), homosexual behaviour (one case, 1%) and blood transfusion (one case, 1%). Central nervous system (CNS) lesions were observed in 67 cases (79%). Opportunistic infections were present in 33 cases (39%), which included toxoplasmosis (11 cases, 13%), tuberculosis (10 cases, 12%), cryptococcosis (seven cases, 8%), and cytomegalovirus infection (six cases, 7%). Multifocal myelin loss was observed in 18 cases (21%), microglial nodules in 15 cases (18%), and angiocentric pallor in five cases (6%). Infarcts/haemorrhages were present in 13 cases (15%), choroid plexitis in 21 cases (25%), lymphocytic meningitis without opportunistic infection in 21 cases (25%), and calcification in four cases (5%). A dual infectious pathology was observed in one case (1%). Multinucleated giant cells and primary CNS lymphoma were not found in any of our cases.
Conclusions: Patient profile and risk factors for AIDS in India differ from those reported in industrialized countries. Although not reported from India in the pre-AIDS era, toxoplasmosis was the most frequently observed CNS opportunistic infection in our study. CNS tuberculosis is frequently observed in Indian AIDS cases compared with reports from industrialized countries where its occurrence is uncommon. Death due to systemic opportunistic infections may punctuate the course of HIV encephalitis and prevent its full-blown morphological expression.