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Issue No. 8 | February 18, 2011

News and Features

Study Reports Antiretroviral Treatment Interruption Limits CD4 Cell Recovery and Increases the Risk of Opportunistic Complications and Death

“A major goal of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV-1-infected persons is the recovery of CD4 T lymphocytes, resulting in thorough protection against opportunistic complications. Interruptions of ART are still frequent. The long-term effect on CD4 T-cell recovery and clinical events remains unknown. …

“Immunological and clinical endpoints were evaluated in 2491 participants of the Swiss HIV Cohort Study initiating ART during a mean follow-up of 7.1 years. Data were analysed in persons with treatment interruptions (n = 1271; group A), continuous ART, but intermittent HIV-1 RNA at least 1000 copies/ml (n = 469; group B) and continuous ART and HIV-1 RNA constantly less than 1000 copies/ml (n = 751; group C). …

“In groups A-C, CD4 T lymphocytes increased to a median of 427, 525 and 645 cells/μl at 8 years. In group A, 63.0 and 37.2% reached above 350 and 500 CD4 T cells/μl, whereas in group B 76.3 and 55.8% and in group C 87.3 and 68.0% reached these thresholds (P < 0.001). CD4 T-cell recovery directly depended on the cumulative duration of treatment interruptions. In addition, participants of group A had more Centers for Disease Control and Prevention B/C events, resulting in an increased risk of death. Major risk factors for not reaching CD4 T cells above 500 cells/μl included lower baseline CD4 T-cell count, higher age and hepatitis C virus co-infection. …

“In persons receiving continuous ART larger CD4 T-cell recovery and a reduced risk for opportunistic complications and death was observed. CD4 T-cell recovery was smaller in persons with treatment interruptions more than 6 months.”

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Research Suggests HIV-Specific CD4 Cell Responses May Contribute to Viral Persistence in HIV Controllers

“Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)--infected individuals maintaining plasma HIV RNA levels <75 copies/mL in the absence of therapy ("HIV controllers") often maintain high HIV-specific T cell responses, which likely contribute to the control of viral replication. Despite robust immune responses, these individuals never eradicate HIV infection. We hypothesized that HIV-specific CD4(+) T cells might serve as target cells for HIV, contributing to viral persistence in this setting. … We measured frequencies of activated (CD38(+) HLA-DR(+)) and HIV Gag-specific CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells and plasma- and cell-associated levels of HIV RNA and DNA in a cohort of 38 HIV controllers. … Although there was no evidence of a relationship between the extent of low-level viremia and the frequency of either activated or HIV-specific CD4(+) T cells, controllers with higher HIV-specific CD4(+) T cell frequencies had higher cell-associated HIV DNA levels (ρ = 0.53; P = .019). Higher activated CD4+ T cell frequencies were also associated with higher levels of cell-associated DNA (P = .027) and RNA (P = .0096). However, there was no evidence of a relationship between cell-associated HIV RNA or DNA levels and HIV-specific CD8(+) T cell frequencies. … These data support a model in which strong HIV-specific CD4(+) T cell responses in HIV controllers, while contributing to a potent adaptive immune response, may also contribute to viral persistence, preventing the natural eradication of HIV infection.”

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