Patient Care

Acute HIV Causes Transient Neurologic Findings


Clinical Question: How common are neurologic findings in acute HIV infection?

Background: The incidence of neurologic findings with acute HIV is unknown.

Study Design: Cohort study.

Setting: Bangkok, Thailand.

Synopsis: In this study, 134 patients were identified after presenting for voluntary HIV testing. Five others were enrolled through an ongoing local study. All 139 participants underwent structured neurologic evaluations at enrollment (median of 19 days after presumed exposure), then at four and 12 weeks. Combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) was initiated immediately after initial evaluation.

The cohort was 93% male. Mean age was younger than 30 years. Fifty-three percent of participants experienced some neurologic finding within 12 weeks of diagnosis. One-third (33%) were cognitive symptoms, predominantly problems of concentration (24% of patients) and memory (16% of patients). One-third (34%) were motor findings, and 11% were neuropathy. Forty-nine percent of the neurologic issues were present at diagnosis. Symptoms were mostly mild, although one patient developed fulminant Guillain-Barré syndrome. Patients with neurologic findings had higher viral loads at diagnosis (mean plasma log10 HIV RNA 5.9 versus 5.4; P = 0.006). Participants with and without neurologic findings had similar cerebral spinal fluid viral loads (mean log10 HIV RNA 3.7 versus 3.1, P = 0.14) and serum CD4 counts (339 versus 381 cells/mm3; P = 0.46). Neurologic findings resolved within one month of cART treatment in 90% of patients. Study limitations include lack of a control cohort and potential confounding from illicit drug use among participants.

Bottom Line: Acute HIV infection commonly causes mild neurologic problems, which remit with treatment.

Citation: Hellmuth J, Fletcher JL, Valcour V, et al. Neurologic signs and symptoms frequently manifest in acute HIV infection. Neurology. 2016;87(2):148-154.

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