Open Access Case report

Transverse myelitis and acute HIV infection: a case report

Paulo Andrade*, Cristóvão Figueiredo, Cláudia Carvalho, Lurdes Santos and António Sarmento

Author Affiliations

Department of Infectious Diseases, Hospital de São João and University of Porto Medical School, Porto, Portugal

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2014, 14:149  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-149

Published: 19 March 2014



Most HIV infected patients will develop some sort of neurologic involvement of the disease throughout their lives, usually in advanced stages. Neurologic symptoms may occur in acute HIV infection but myelopathy in this setting is rare. Up until this date, only two cases of transverse myelitis as a manifestation of acute HIV infection have been reported in the literature. Therapeutic approach in these patients is not well defined.

Case presentation

A 35 year-old male Caucasian recently returned from the tropics presented to our hospital with urinary retention and acute paraparesis. After extensive diagnostic workup he was diagnosed with acute HIV infection presenting as transverse myelitis. Full neurologic recovery was observed without the use of anti-retroviral therapy.


Acute spinal cord disorders are challenging, as they present a wide array of differential diagnosis and may lead to devastating sequelae. Timely and rigorous diagnostic workup is of the utmost importance when managing these cases. Clinicians should be aware of the protean manifestations of acute HIV infection, including central nervous system involvement, and have a low threshold for HIV screening.

Transverse myelitis; HIV; Acute infection