What are histologic findings characteristic of HIV infection and AIDS?

Updated: Jul 27, 2020
  • Author: Shelley A Gilroy, MD, FACP, FIDSA; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Certain histologic findings are characteristic of various features of HIV infection and AIDS. The lymph node architecture is progressively disrupted; this can be reversed with effective antiviral therapy. Findings include hyperplasia, multinucleated syncytia of T cells, and loss of the normal follicular dendritic network. Nucleic acid or immunohistochemical stains for viral antigens shows virus localizing to macrophages, T cells, and dendritic cells. Electron microscopy may reveal virions or intracellular virus within phagosomes in macrophages.

Multinucleated giant cells are a characteristic finding in patients with HIV encephalopathy. Myelin pallor and microgliosis may also be observed.

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