AIDS 2002 Sep;16(13):1767-73
Cattedra di Immunologia, Università degli Studi di Milano, DISP LITA Vialba, Milano, Italy.
Background: Control of HIV replication can be observed in highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)-treated and, occasionally, in HAART-naive patients. The immunological correlates of these situations were examined in a longitudinal study.
Design: A prospective study. Immunovirological analyses in 16 chronically HIV-infected, HAART-naive patients (time 0) who started HAART. Fifteen patients (short-term HAART) were re-evaluated after 24 months (time 1). Results were compared with those of 30 patients who received HAART for more than 12 months before the study period (long-term HAART) and were analysed at the same timepoints. Fifteen patients who were antiviral therapy naive (naive) at both timepoints were also studied.
Results: Over a 24-month period CD4 and CD8 cell counts and viraemia remained unchanged in naive and long-term HAART patients; CD4 cell counts increased and viraemia diminished in short-term HAART individuals. Antigen-stimulated proliferation was unmodified in naive and short-term HAART patients, but improved in long-term HAART individuals. Gp160-stimulated IL-2 and IFN-gamma production was augmented in long-term HAART patients and marginally modified in other patients. IL-7 production was unmodified in naive individuals, augmented in short-term HAART patients, and diminished in long-term HAART patients. Chemokine production was similar in all patients. Naive patients showed the highest CD8 cell counts at both timepoints.
Conclusion: HAART has a major impact on the outcome of HIV infection, even if functional immune modulation in HAART-treated patients is evident only after long periods of therapy. Low but detectable HIV replication in HAART-naive patients with preserved immune functions might not be associated with CD4 cell reduction, functional immune defects, or changes in viraemia.