AIMS--To evaluate the presence of cytomegalovirus (CMV) DNA in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with AIDS and suspected viral encephalitis using an in situ hybridisation assay with digoxigenin labelled CMV DNA probes. METHODS--The presence of CMV DNA was evaluated in cerebrospinal fluid cells of 10 patients with AIDS using in situ hybridisation. The positivity of CMV DNA was confirmed by the presence of CMV induced antigens in the same specimens. The presence of CMV DNA and CMV induced antigens was also analysed in peripheral blood leucocytes. The time required to perform the in situ hybridisation assay was about eight hours. RESULTS--The in situ hybridisation assay was sensitive, specific, and provided good resolution. Six patients proved positive for the presence of CMV DNA in CSF cells and all six also proved positive for CMV DNA in blood leucocytes. Of the six CMV positive patients, five were treated with specific antiviral drugs: of these, one died during the treatment while four clinically recovered after one month of treatment. CONCLUSIONS--The in situ hybridisation assay using digoxigenin labelled CMV DNA probes can be used as a valuable diagnostic test for the detection of CMV DNA in the cerebrospinal fluid cells of patients with suspected CMV encephalitis and can therefore prompt adequate antiviral therapeutic intervention.
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