Cerebrospinal fluid viral load is related to cortical atrophy and not to intracerebral calcifications in children with symptomatic HIV disease

Pim Brouwers, Lucy Civitello, Charles DeCarli, Pamela Wolters, Shizuko Sei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Scopus citations


The relationships between viral load in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and computed tomography (CT) brain scan abnormalities were studied in 39 children between 0.5 and 13 years of age with symptomatic HIV-1 disease. Quantitative RNA PCR was used to determine HIV-1 RNA levels and a semiquantitative analog rating technique was used to evaluate non-contrast CT brain scans. CSF HIV-1 RNA copy number correlated significantly with CT brain scan ratings for severity of cortical atrophy (r=0.36; P < 0.05) but not with ratings of intracerebral calcifications (r=-12; NS). The difference between these two correlations was significant (P<0.05). Plasma HIV-1 RNA copy number did not correlate significantly with any CT brain scan ratings or with CSF viral load (r=0.05; NS). Severity of cortical atrophy appeared to reflect the level of viral load in the CSF, supporting the notion that active HIV-1 replication in the CNS is at least in part responsible for such brain abnormalities in children. The lack of correlation of intracerebral calcifications with other CT brain scan abnormalities as well as with CSF viral load suggests that this lesion is relatively independent and may reflect a different neuropathologic process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)390-397
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of NeuroVirology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes



  • Central nervous system disease
  • Cerebrospinal fluid analysis
  • Computed tomography brain scans
  • Encephalopathy
  • Pediatric HIV infection
  • Viral load

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Clinical Neurology

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