Twenty-four cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from 19 AIDS patients with neurological signs were analysed by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the presence of JC virus (JCV). Eleven of the 19 patients tested presented with progressive multifocal leucoencephalopathy (PML). Two specific JCV target sequences were used for the PCR analysis: a sequence specific for the T antigen genes from both BK virus (BKV) and JCV (PCR1) and a sequence specific for the large T antigen gene from JCV (PCR2). The JCV genome was detected in 10 of 11 patients with PML by the PCR1 method and in all 11 patients by the PCR2 method. With samples from the eight patients without PML, one positive result was obtained with the PCR1 method and this sample and another gave positive results with PCR2. Multiple CSF samples were collected from three patients with PML at different times, including after intrathecal cytarabine treatment, and were tested by the PCR2 method for the presence of the JCV genome. The PCR result became negative for two of the three patients during the cytarabine treatment. However, the absence of a PCR signal was not associated with clinical improvement in these patients. The PCR method is useful for the detection of JCV in CSF samples and in the diagnosis of PML. However, the application of PCR for monitoring the effect of treatment remains to be established.


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