BACKGROUND--HIV is present in bronchoalveolar lavage cells of some but not all HIV seropositive patients. Abnormalities of lung function have been described in such patients in the absence of clinically overt pneumonia or other respiratory infections. It is possible that the presence of HIV in alveolar macrophages could account for these abnormalities. It is also possible that the presence of HIV in alveolar macrophages contributes to immunosuppression and an increased incidence of opportunistic infections. METHODS--This was a prospective study of 157 HIV seropositive patients requiring diagnostic bronchoscopy for investigation of new respiratory symptoms, chest radiograph abnormality, or pneumonic illness. Presence of HIV in bronchoalveolar lavage cells obtained at diagnostic bronchoscopy was determined by polymerase chain reaction to detect proviral DNA and in vitro cocultivation to detect productive virus infection. With these two techniques the presence or absence of HIV in bronchoalveolar lavage was compared with the presence of abnormalities of lung function or presence of Pneumocystis pneumonia. RESULTS--HIV was detected in bronchoalveolar lavage cells in 65% of patients by means of the polymerase chain reaction and 59% with cocultivation. With both methods of detection there was no association between the presence or absence of HIV and the presence of Pneumocystis pneumonia; nor was there a relation between the presence of HIV and abnormalities of lung function. CONCLUSION--The presence of HIV in bronchoalveolar lavage cells does not predispose to an increased incidence of Pneumocystis pneumonia; nor does it contribute to abnormalities of lung function.
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