Histochemical, electron microscopy and biochemical studies were performed on muscle biopsy specimens from 11 AIDS patients treated with zidovudine. A peculiar association of structural abnormalities and mitochondrial dysfunction was found. Focal cytochrome c oxidase (COX) deficiency was evident in muscle sections from 9 patients, 8 of whom had received long-term treatment while one had been treated for 1 month only. Electron microscopy showed changes in number, size and structure of mitochondria. Biochemical studies proved partial COX and succinate cytochrome c reductase (SCR) deficiency in 4 patients; one patient had only reduced SCR activity. Our data confirm that AZT therapy can cause toxic myopathy with mitochondrial dysfunction.
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