Blood-brain barrier and retroviral infections

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Homeostasis in the central nervous system (CNS) is maintained by active interfaces between the bloodstream and the brain parenchyma. The blood-brain barrier (BBB) constitutes a selective filter for exchange of water, solutes, nutrients, and controls toxic compounds or pathogens entry. Some parasites, bacteria, and viruses have however developed various CNS invasion strategies, and can bypass the brain barriers. Concerning viruses, these strategies include transport along neural pathways, transcytosis, infection of the brain endothelial cells, breaching of the BBB, and passage of infected-leukocytes. Moreover, neurotropic viruses can alter BBB functions, thus compromising CNS homeostasis. Retroviruses have been associated to human neurological diseases: HIV (human immunodeficiency virus 1) can induce HIV-associated dementia, and HTLV-1 (human T lymphotropic virus 1) is the etiological factor of tropical spastic paraparesis/HTLV-1 associated myelopathy (TSP/HAM). The present review focuses on how the different retroviruses interact with this structure, bypass it and alter its functions.

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