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RR Atherton, J Ellis, FV Cresswell, J Rhein and DR Boulware
Abstract
Cryptococcal meningitis is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among HIV-infected persons, accounting for 15% of AIDS-related deaths. Visual disturbance is commonly reported, and a wide range of ophthalmic signs may be present on examination. There is limited published literature to date describing the range and incidence of ophthalmic signs in HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis. Nested within the Adjunctive Sertraline for the Treatment of HIV-Associated Cryptococcal Meningitis (ASTRO-CM) trial (ClinicalTrials.gov number: NCT01802385), we conducted an observational study of 696 Ugandan adults with HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis. Patients were screened for visual disturbance and external ophthalmic signs at initial presentation and at follow-up appointments over 18 weeks. Assessment comprised simple clinical history and basic examination and required no specialist equipment. More than a quarter of our cohort demonstrated ocular signs or symptoms, which were observed throughout the study period.  A broad range of ocular signs were demonstrated: these included neurological signs (10.9%), localized ocular pathology (4.5%), and evidence of concurrent systemic disease (12.9%). The range of signs observed demonstrates the complexities of case management in patients with advanced HIV and cryptococcosis and also the importance of basic ocular examination in low resource settings. There remains an urgent need for studies conducting comprehensive ocular examination in patients with HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis; these studies should include formal assessment of visual acuity, slit lamp examination and dilated indirect ophthalmoscopy. Prospective studies should investigate whether there is a correlation between reported visual disturbance and objective signs, in order to further clarify the underlying mechanisms and to guide effective diagnosis, follow-up and management.
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