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  • Title: Acute human immunodeficiency virus syndrome in an adolescent.
    Author: Aggarwal M, Rein J.
    Journal: Pediatrics; 2003 Oct; 112(4):e323. PubMed ID: 14523219.
    Acute human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) seroconversion illness is a difficult diagnosis to make because of its nonspecific and protean manifestations. We present such a case in an adolescent. A 15-year-old boy presented with a 5-day history of fever, sore throat, vomiting, and diarrhea. The patient also reported a nonproductive cough, coryza, and fatigue. The patient's only risk factor for HIV infection was a history of unprotected intercourse with 5 girls. Physical examination was significant for fever, exudative tonsillopharyngitis, shotty cervical lymphadenopathy, and palpable purpura on both feet. Laboratory studies demonstrated lymphopenia and mild thrombocytopenia. Hemoglobin, serum creatinine, and urinalysis were normal. The following day, the patient remained febrile. Physical examination revealed oral ulcerations, conjunctivitis, and erythematous papules on the thorax; the purpura was unchanged. Serologies for hepatitis B, syphilis, HIV, and Epstein-Barr virus were negative. Bacterial cultures of blood and stool and viral cultures of throat and conjunctiva showed no pathogens. Coagulation profile and liver enzymes were normal. Within 1 week, all symptoms had resolved. The platelet count normalized. Repeat HIV serology was positive, as was HIV DNA polymerase chain reaction. Subsequent HIV viral load was 350 000, and the CD4 lymphocyte count was 351/mm3. HIV is the seventh leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24 in the United States, and up to half of all new infections occur in adolescents. Our patient presented with many of the typical signs and symptoms of acute HIV infection: fever, fatigue, rash, pharyngitis, lymphadenopathy, oral ulcers, emesis, and diarrhea. Other symptoms commonly reported include headache, myalgias, arthralgias, aseptic meningitis, peripheral neuropathy, thrush, weight loss, night sweats, and genital ulcers. Common seroconversion laboratory findings include leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, and elevated transaminases. The suspicion of acute HIV illness should prompt virologic and serologic analysis. Initial serology is usually negative. Diagnosis therefore depends on direct detection of the virus, by assay of viral load (HIV RNA), DNA polymerase chain reaction, or p24 antigen. Both false-positive and false-negative results for these tests have been reported, further complicating early diagnosis. Pediatricians should play an active role in identifying HIV-infected patients. Our case, the first report of acute HIV illness in an adolescent, emphasizes that clinicians should consider acute HIV seroconversion in the appropriate setting. Recognition of acute HIV syndrome is especially important for improving prognosis and limiting transmission. It is imperative that we maintain a high index of suspicion as primary care physicians for adolescents who present with a viral syndrome and appropriate risk factors.
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