National Center for Global Health, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome 00161, Italy.
Background: HIV-exposed uninfected (HEU) infants show a high rate of morbidity. We aimed to investigate on biomarkers of immune activation/microbial translocation in HEU infants, evaluating the impact that infections/malnutrition can have on biomarker levels during the first year of life.
Methods: Clinical data of 72 Malawian infants were recorded monthly and correlated with levels of soluble CD14 (sCD14), lipopolysaccharide-binding protein (LBP) and intestinal fatty acid-binding protein (I-FABP), analyzed longitudinally.
Results: Levels of sCD14 and LBP showed a significant age-related increase. Higher levels of LBP (19.4 vs. 15.2 μg/ml) were associated with stunting, affecting 30% of the infants. The association remained statistically significant after adjusting for cytomegalovirus acquisition, malaria and respiratory infections (p = 0.031). I-FABP levels were significantly increased in infants experiencing gastrointestinal infections (1442.8 vs. 860.0 pg/ml, p = 0.018).
Conclusion: We provide evidence that stunting is associated with an enhanced inflammatory response to microbial products in HEU children, suggesting that malnutrition status should be taken into consideration to better understand the alteration of the immune profile of HEU infants living in poor socioeconomic settings.
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