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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 1995 Jan;119(1):36-41.

Localization of human immunodeficiency virus 1 RNA in thymic tissues from asymptomatic drug addicts.

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Department of Cardiovascular Pathology, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, DC 20306-6000.


Thymic tissue was collected from 11 human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1)-seropositive drug users who died suddenly of drug intoxication or trauma. None of the 11 individuals had symptoms related to HIV-1 infection or were known to be seropositive for HIV-1 before death. Secondary B-cell follicles were present in every thymus, and Warthin-Finckeldey giant cells were noted in three cases. These follicles were enlarged or fragmented and appeared similar to those in lymph nodes excised from the same individuals. Localization of viral RNA by in situ hybridization demonstrated abundant virus in a follicular center cell distribution within hyperplastic follicles and in scattered medullary lymphocytes. In nine thymus glands from seronegative drug addicts and five thymus glands from seronegative trauma victims who were not drug addicts, secondary follicles were absent and no hybridization signal was present. Other than the presence of germinal centers associated with HIV-1 RNA, there were no histologic differences among the thymus glands of seropositive drug addicts, seronegative drug addicts, and seronegative controls without a history of drug abuse. We conclude that the thymus gland in early stages of infection with HIV-1 is characterized by induction of secondary B-cell follicular hyperplasia in medullary tissues, the germinal centers of which contain abundant viral RNA.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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