Siderotic cerebral macrophages in the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome

B. B. Gelman, M. G. Rodriguez-Wolf, J. Wen, S. Kumar, G. R. Campbell, N. Herzog

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Excessive hemosiderin-laden perivascular macrophages have been described in the brains of patients with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) who underwent autopsy; its meaning remains unclear. In the brains of 53 patients with AIDS who consecutively underwent autopsy, we quantified the abnormality, elucidated its relationship to the pathologic features of AIDS, and asked if there was some relationship to endogenous iron storage and transport proteins in brain macrophages and microglia. The number of perivascular siderotic macrophages was significantly increased in patients with AIDS compared with age-matched control subjects. Macrophage siderosis was strongly correlated with the presence of disseminated mycobacterial infection and vacuolar myelopathy at autopsy; a generalized wasting (cachexia) also was related significantly. Many other pathologic abnormalities were not related, including putative human immunodeficiency virus-specific neuropathologic changes such as multinucleated cells and myelin pallor. Activated macrophages and microglial cells in the central nervous system had dense intracytoplasmic accumulation of ferritin (iron storage protein) in AIDS and non-AIDS patients. These results suggest that siderosis of cerebral macrophages is related to an ill-defined nonspecific systemic imbalance associated with the breakdown of abundant stores of endogenous intracellular ferritin. Understanding chronic 'secondary' effects of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection will become increasingly important as improved survival in patients with AIDS is realized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-516
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


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