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Gastroenterology. 1992 May;102(5):1483-92.

Effects of zidovudine treatment on the small intestinal mucosa in patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus.

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Department of Medicine, Klinikum Steglitz, Free University of Berlin, Germany.


Zidovudine is associated with hematologic toxicity and may also impair the rapidly proliferating intestinal epithelium. However, patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection receiving zidovudine gain body weight, indicating improved absorptive function. In the present study, 33 HIV-infected patients with gastrointestinal symptoms who were undergoing duodenoscopy and who had no detectable secondary intestinal pathogens were investigated; 12 of them received zidovudine. HIV antigen p24 was detected in duodenal biopsy specimens by immunohistology in 3 of 12 patients with zidovudine treatment and in 10 of 21 patients without zidovudine treatment. Morphometry of duodenal specimens showed reduced villus surface area (P less than 0.05) without crypt hyperplasia independent of zidovudine therapy and reduced numbers of crypt mitoses in patients with mucosal HIV infection (P less than 0.001) compared with controls. In the duodenal brush border, patients with mucosal HIV infection (P = 0.006) and patients without zidovudine treatment (P = 0.009) had absent lactase/beta-glucosidase activity more frequently than controls, and all HIV-infected patients (P less than 0.025) except zidovudine recipients had decreased alkaline phosphatase activity compared with controls. These findings show a hyporegenerative atrophy of the small intestine and enterocyte dysmaturation associated with mucosal HIV infection. Improved enterocyte maturation, indicated by increased brush border enzyme activity, may contribute to the clinical benefit of HIV-infected patients from zidovudine therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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