Involvement of the pancreas in AIDS: a prospective study of 109 post-mortems

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BackgroundPancreatic involvement in AIDS is rarely mentioned in medical literature.AimsTo identify the main morphological patterns of the pancreas using optical and electron microscopy in AIDS patients.DesignAn open, prospective, and sequential study in a tertiary institutional hospital.MethodsConsecutive post-mortems of 109 AIDS patients and 38 controls (1995). Baseline characteristics of AIDS patients and controls were evaluated. Morphological analysis consisted of: (i) semi-quantitative score of acinar and parenchymal elements; (ii) qualitative analysis of ducts, vascular components, nerves, and Langerhans’ islets; (iii) specific stains and immunohistochemistry for opportunistic agents; (iv) ultrastructural data.ResultsThe mean age of AIDS patients was 37 years; 80% were male; 60% were white; 21% were alcoholic. All patients with AIDS had normal blood amylase, blood glucose, and pancreatic ultrasound. Histological findings were: acinar atrophy (60%), few zymogen granula in acinar cytoplasm (52%), abnormalities in acinar nucleus (65%), pancreatic steatosis (66%), and focal necrosis (17%). Immunohistochemistry revealed: mycobacteriosis (22%), toxoplasmosis (13%), cytomegalovirus (9%), Pneumocystis carinii (9%), and HIV p24 antigen in macropahge cytoplasm (22%). Ultrastructural examination showed: decreased zymogen granula, enlargement and proliferation of the endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria, nuclear abnormalities, and increased lipid droplets in acinar cytoplasm.ConclusionPancreatic involvement in AIDS is very frequent (90%) and is usually asymptomatic. Morphological changes showed three patterns of pancreatic alterations: ‘nutritional-like', inflammatory and both of these together. The ‘nutritional-like’ pattern (atrophy, few zymogen granula and steatosis) may be due to many factors such as nutritional characteristics (Kwashiorkor-like) induced by the HIV infection or related to the HIV virus itself.

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