30: Human immunodeficiency virus infection, AIDS and infections in compromised patients

Chapter 30 Human immunodeficiency virus infection, AIDS and infections in compromised patients

Human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome

By the end of 2008, an estimated 33.4 million people worldwide were living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. That same year, some 2 million people died of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)-related illnesses, and in total, 20 million globally have died of AIDS and related illnesses thus far. Globally, less than one person in five at risk of HIV has access to basic HIV prevention services. Only 36% of people who needed HIV treatment had access to it by the end of 2009.

Although HIV infection is now a global pandemic, AIDS was only described in 1981, in young homosexual men in the USA. However, the disease appears to have originated in Africa, where cases have been revealed from as long ago as 1959. The virus causes depletion of CD4+ T-helper lymphocytes over many years; as a consequence of which, patients succumb to opportunistic infections, particularly Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) and oral candidiasis, and neoplasms, especially Kaposi’s sarcoma.

After infection with HIV, there is a prolonged asymptomatic period that may last up to 10 years, but the risk of developing severe immunodeficiency and AIDS increases with time. Thus, the clinical spectrum of HIV infection is broad, ranging from asymptomatic or mild infection to severe clinical illness and profound immunodeficiency. The variety of clinical manifestations seen in AIDS has spawned a number of definitions of the disease. However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has rationalized and revised these to include all patients with CD4+ cell counts of less than 200 per microlitre.

The battle to conquer HIV infection and AIDS is fought on many fronts, consuming millions of dollars, and thus far all efforts at producing a preventive vaccine have failed. However, the introduction of new antiviral regimens such as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has increased life expectancy in HIV infection and dramatically reduced complications, suppressing viral replication to undetectable levels.

The impact of HIV and AIDS on the practice of clinical dentistry has been enormous; first, because of the regimentation in infection control it has spawned throughout the profession, and second, because of the many oral manifestations and their management, of which the practising dentist has to be aware.

Human immunodeficiency virus

The virus has a diameter of 100 nm, and its structure is described below. There are two types: HIV-1 is the most prevalent; HIV-2 is a variant that originated in West Africa and has spread to Central Africa, Europe and South America. Type 1 is classified into two major groups: M, containing 10 genetically distinct subtypes (A–J), and O, containing a heterogeneous collection of viruses. Type 2 HIV, except for its antigenic and nucleic acid profile, has similar biological properties to HIV-1.

The structure of HIV is shown in Figure 30.1. It consists of:

Transmission of HIV

The virus is most commonly acquired by having sex with an infected partner. The virus can enter the body through the lining of the vagina, vulva, penis, rectum or mouth during sex. The infection can also be transmitted by exchange of infected blood, or other body fluids such as breast milk, and is not transmitted by social or casual, non-sexual contact. Currently, heterosexual sex is the major mode of transmission worldwide. Other notable transmission modes include sharing of needles, vertical transmission in utero, breast-feeding and transfusion of infected blood or blood products (factor VIII concentrate). Occasional cases of HIV infection result from needlestick injuries in health care settings. The question of HIV transmission among health care workers, including dentists, is addressed at the end of this chapter.

Saliva and HIV transmission

There is only a very slim possibility that HIV may be transmitted by saliva, for the following reasons.

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome

Natural history of the disease

AIDS is an insidious disease, characterized by opportunistic infections (fungal, viral and mycobacterial), malignancies (especially Kaposi’s sarcoma and lymphomas that may be virally induced) and autoimmune disorders (Fig. 30.2).

The average time to development of AIDS is 8–11 years in most adults in the developed world, and much less in the developing world due to aggravating cofactors such as malnutrition and intercurrent infection (e.g. malaria). A few individuals (some 2%) have not developed AIDS despite antibody positivity. Overall, almost half of those diagnosed with AIDS will die. Untreated, the median survival is about 1 year from the time of diagnosis, and 95% will die within 5 years.

Mean time for seroconversion after exposure to HIV is 3–4 weeks, with the onset of an acute seroconversion illness similar to glandular fever. Most will have antibodies within 6–12 weeks after infection and virtually all will be positive within 6 months. Symptoms of such seroconversion include fever, malaise, rash, oral ulceration and, occasionally, encephalitis and meningitis. In some, the disease may then become quiescent and asymptomatic for several years (range 1–15 years or more) for reasons yet unknown. Some of them may have persistent generalized lymphadenopathy (PGL), where the enlarged lymph nodes are painless and asymmetrical in distribution and involve submandibular and neck nodes. In the HIV disease classification, patients with these symptoms are categorized as group A (Table 30.1).

Progressive disease leads to other features, including fatigue, fever, weight loss, candidiasis, diarrhoea, hairy leukoplakia, herpes zoster and perianal herpes, and these illnesses are sometimes referred to as the AIDS-defining complex. Patients with these symptoms and signs of progressive illness are categorized as group B.

Finally, a percentage of HIV-infected individuals develop full-blown AIDS (50–70% depending on drug therapy and other associated cofactors; median life expectancy is 18 months). These individuals are in group C. The AIDS-defining conditions are subdivided into opportunistic infections and secondary neoplasms, and include Kaposi’s sarcoma, PCP and many other exotic infections (Table 30.2).

Table 30.2 Opportunistic infections, neoplasms and miscellaneous complications of HIV disease

Opportunistic infections  
Mucocutaneous Human herpesviruses
  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8
  Human papillomaviruses
  Molluscum contagiosum
  Non-tuberculous mycobacteria
  Candida albicans
  Staphylococcus aureus
  Histoplasmosis
Gastrointestinal Cryptosporidiosis
  Microsporidiosis
  Isosporiasis
  Giardiasis
Respiratory Pneumocystis carinii
  Aspergillosis
  Candidosis
  Cryptococcosis
  Histoplasmosis
  Zygomycosis (mucormycosis)
  Strongyloidosis
  Mycobacteria, including tuberculosis
  Staphylococcus aureus
  Streptococcus pneumoniae
  Haemophilus influenzae
  Toxoplasmosis
  Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
Meningitis Creutzfeldt–Jakob agent
Encephalitis Papovaviruses
  Cryptococcus neoformans
  Toxoplasma gondii
Neoplasms  
  Kaposi’s sarcoma
  Lymphoma
  Squamous cell carcinoma
  Leukaemia
Miscellaneous  
  Encephalopathy
  Thrombocytopenic purpura
  Lupus erythematosus
  Seborrhoeic dermatitis

The Centers for Disease Control disease classification also incorporates blood CD4 lymphocyte count, as a decrease in the latter is associated with adverse prognosis (Table 30.1).

Jan 4, 2015 | Posted by in General Dentistry | Comments Off on 30: Human immunodeficiency virus infection, AIDS and infections in compromised patients
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