BACKGROUND: Prospectively and systematically collected data on frequency and spectrum of unexpected clinical manifestations during primary human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection (PHI) have not been published.
METHODS: We prospectively enrolled 290 patients with documented PHI in the Zurich Primary HIV Infection Study. Typical acute retroviral syndrome (ARS) was defined as fever plus at least 1 symptom or sign typically considered to be associated with ARS; in absence of fever, presence of 2 or more ARS symptoms or signs. Atypical ARS was defined as lack of symptoms or signs, a single symptom or sign only and absence of fever, presence of symptoms or signs that are not considered typically associated with ARS, or occurrence of an opportunistic disease. Time to diagnosis was calculated based on estimated date of infection and first positive HIV test.
RESULTS: We analyzed 290 patients (271 males). PHI manifested with typical ARS in 202 (70%) and with atypical ARS in 88 (30%) patients. Patients with atypical ARS were hospitalized 4 times more often compared with typical ARS (43% vs 11%; P < .001). The gastrointestinal tract was the most frequent organ system affected in patients with atypical manifestations. Only in 112 (38%) patients was HIV infection suspected during the first medical attendance. Patients with typical ARS were diagnosed slightly earlier compared with atypical ARS, but this difference was not significant (P = .3).
CONCLUSIONS: Unexpected clinical presentations occurred in a large fraction of patients with PHI and were associated with substantial morbidity. Universal HIV testing may be mandatory in high-risk groups.