Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) is a fatal demyelinating central nervous system (CNS) infection, affecting mainly oligodendrocytes, but also occasional astrocytes. In the USA, Europe and Asia, PML is caused by the human polyomavirus JC virus (JCV) and in autopsy series occurs in about 4-7% of AIDS patients. In Africa, the prevalence of PML in AIDS patients is uncertain and the causative agent is unknown. This study reports immunocytochemical and PCR confirmation of PML in the CNS of an AIDS patient dying in Uganda, East Africa (case 1). In a Gambian patient infected with HIV-2 who died 3 months after onset of AIDS/PML in Germany (case 2), it was possible to confirm the identity of the virus by DNA sequencing of the PCR amplified JCV product. This African genotype of the virus (type 3) showed an unusual re-arrangement of the regulatory region, and could be distinguished at several sites from East African and African-American JCV strains described previously. This study has confirmed that PML is a complication of African AIDS as it is in Europe and the USA, and that JCV type 3 is pathogenic in African AIDS patients. Furthermore, the finding of an African genotype of JCV in a patient dying in Germany suggests that in this individual JCV represented a latent infection acquired in Africa.


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