From Clinical Presentation to the Outcome: the Natural History of PML in a Portuguese Population of HIV Infected Patients

Filipe Nery, Margarida Franca, Isabel Almeida, Carlos Vasconcelos


Background: Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) is a demyelinating disease of the central nervous system, associated with immunosuppression states. As there are only some non-published documents concerning PML in HIV infected patients in Portugal, we pretend to characterize natural history of PML infection in a population of HIV patients.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed, from 1992 to 2009, PML cases in a population of 724 HIV infected patients followed in our institution. Clinical, biological, imagery features and outcomes were characterized.

Results: Twenty-five (3.45%) patients were identified as having PML. The mean time between HIV and PML diagnosis was 20.4 months. PML was the presentation of HIV infection in 40% of the patients, and 92% had CD4 T cell count lower than 200/mm3. Paresis was the most common clinical presentation. No specific characteristics were found in cerebrospinal fluid and JCV DNA was positive in 3 of 7 patients. MRI revealed characteristic findings. Combined antiretroviral therapy was started or changed in 96% of the patients. Neurological condition got worse in 12 patients. From the 14 deaths, 5 were directly attributed to PML progression. Follow-up was lost in 8 patients.

Conclusions: PML was the presentation of HIV infection in more than 1/3 of patients, frequently associated with advanced immunocompromise. MRI sensitivity to PML is high, and JCV DNA determination in CSF was not revealed to be sensible. PML diagnosis should be taken into account in HIV patients presenting any neurological symptoms, and HIV infection should be suspected when radiological findings suggest PML lesions even in previously healthy individuals.



Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy; JC virus; Human immunodeficiency virus; Demyelinating disease

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