Observational Study
Copyright ©The Author(s) 2016. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Virol. Feb 12, 2016; 5(1): 31-37
Published online Feb 12, 2016. doi: 10.5501/wjv.v5.i1.31
Neuropathology of JC virus infection in progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy in remission
Karen S SantaCruz, Gulmohor Roy, James Spigel, Elaine L Bearer
Karen S SantaCruz, Elaine L Bearer, Department of Pathology, University of New Mexico, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, NM 87131, United States
Gulmohor Roy, Department of Neurology, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, United States
James Spigel, Department of Pathology, Presbyterian Hospital, Albuquerque, NM 87110, United States
Author contributions: SantaCruz KS is a neuropathologist who reviewed all histopathology and determined the diagnosis, captured the histological images and helped to write the MS; Roy G was a resident in training who reviewed the medical chart and drafted and edited the MS; Spigel J performed the autopsy, contributed and edited clinical data and reviewed the MS; Bearer EL is an experimental neuropathologist who reviewed the pathology, edited the MS, added the references, selected the images, prepared the figures and replied to reviewers’ comments.
Supported by The Harvey Family Endowment (ELB) and National Institutes of Health RO1 MH096093, RO1 NS062184, and RO1 NS046810.
Institutional review board statement: The Institutional review board of University of New Mexico finds IRB approval not applicable for post-mortem case reports.
Informed consent statement: Consent for post-mortem examination was obtained from the family.
Conflict-of-interest statement: The authors have no conflict of interest to report.
Data sharing statement: All blocks and slides from this report are available upon request to the corresponding author according to the policies of the pathology department at UNM.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article which was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
Correspondence to: Elaine L Bearer, Professor, Department of Pathology, University of New Mexico, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, UNM Hospital (MSC08 4640), Albuquerque, NM 87131, United States. ebearer@salud.unm.edu
Telephone: +1-505-2722404 Fax: +1-505-2728084
Received: August 7, 2015
Peer-review started: August 11, 2015
First decision: September 22, 2015
Revised: October 14, 2015
Accepted: December 13, 2015
Article in press: December 15, 2015
Published online: February 12, 2016

AIM: To investigate the neuropathology of the brain in a rare case of remission following diagnosis of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML).

METHODS: Consent from the family for an autopsy was obtained, clinical records and radiograms were retrieved. A complete autopsy was performed, with brain examination after fixation and coronal sectioning at 1 cm intervals. Fourteen regions were collected for paraffin embedding and staining for microscopic analysis. Histologic sections were stained with Luxol blue, hematoxylin/eosin, and immunostained for myelin basic protein, neurofilament, SV40 T antigen and p53. The biopsy material was also retrieved and sections were stained with hematoxylin/eosin and immunostained for SV40 and p53. Sections were examined by American Board of Pathology certified pathologists and images captured digitally.

RESULTS: Review of the clinical records was notable for a history of ulcerative colitis resulting in total colectomy in 1977 and a liver transplant in 1998 followed by immune-suppressive therapy. Neurological symptoms presented immediately, therefore a biopsy was obtained which was diagnosed as PML. Immunotherapy was adjusted and clinical improvement was noted. No subsequent progression was reported. Review of the biopsy demonstrated atypical astrocytes and enlarged hyperchromatic oligodendroglial cells consistent with JC virus infection. Strong SV40 and p53 staining was found in glial cells and regions of dense macrophage infiltration were present. On gross examination of the post-mortem brain, a lesion in the same site as the original biopsy in the cerebellum was identified but no other lesions in the brain were found. Microscopic analysis of this cerebellar lesion revealed a loss of myelin and axons, and evidence of axonal damage. This single burned-out lesion was equivocally positive for SV40 antigen with little p53 staining. Examination of thirteen other brain regions found no other occult sites.

CONCLUSION: Our study reveals residual damage, rare macrophages or other inflammation and minimal evidence of persistent virus. This case demonstrates the possibility of complete remission of PML.

Keywords: Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, JC virus, Remission, Demyelinating

Core tip: Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy after organ transplant is rapidly fatal in most cases, with an average time to death of 6.4 mo. We report a case with no clinical progression over 14 years despite on-going immunosuppressive therapy. At initial diagnosis the biopsy demonstrated classic histopathological features of JC virus. At autopsy, microscopic analysis of the cerebellar lesion revealed a residual loss of myelin and evidence of axonal damage without evidence of viral activity. These results suggest that JC virus can be kept in check even in a setting of immunosuppression, and argue for more investigation into the microbiome of the brain.