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John Howard, Thomas Z. Thompson, Rodger D. MacArthur, Amyn M. Rojiani, Joseph White
(Department of Pathology, Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, Augusta, GA, USA)
Am J Case Rep 2020; 21:e924410
After initial infection with HIV, loss of CD4+ T cells progresses along a predictable timeline. The clinical latency stage lasts an average of 10 years, until the CD4+ T cell count falls below 200 cells/uL or the patient develops an AIDS-defining opportunistic infection/cancer. This report describes an unusual opportunistic infection in a young patient with no prior clinical evidence of HIV infection.
CASE REPORT: An 18-year-old man presented with fever, abdominal pain, and dyspnea for the previous 2 weeks and was symptomatically treated for gastroenteritis. He presented 2 weeks later with extreme fatigue, and a CT scan revealed diffuse lymphadenopathy. He was transferred to a regional hospital, but upon arrival and prior to detailed investigative work-up, he developed cardiac arrest. Despite maximal resuscitative efforts, he died approximately 8 h after admission. At autopsy, diffuse lymphadenopathy, splenomegaly, and pulmonary congestion were noted. Disseminated cryptococcal infection involving almost every organ system was identified at autopsy. A postmortem HIV-1 antibody test was positive. The cause of death was severe immunodeficiency as a result of advanced HIV infection resulting in disseminated cryptococcal infection, with cerebral edema, herniation, and respiratory failure.
CONCLUSIONS: This patient’s non-specific symptoms in conjunction with his rapid decline made arriving at a correct diagnosis challenging. Only during autopsy was the disseminated fungal infection discovered, leading to suspicion of HIV infection.
HIV autopsies are not uncommon, but the clinical history is usually known beforehand. This case report highlights the importance of considering HIV-related conditions in patients presenting with this array of symptoms, as well as to alert healthcare providers and staff to the need for increased biosafety precautions.