Effect of combination antiretroviral therapy upon rectal mucosal HIV RNA burden and mononuclear cell apoptosis

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Pathogen-negative diarrhea is common in HIV infection and has been associated with clinical symptoms, histopathology, HIV expression, CD4+ lymphocyte depletion, cytokine mRNA expression, and apoptosis of lamina propria mononuclear cells.

Objectives and methods:

To examine the short-term (7-day) effects of treatment with combination antiretroviral therapies upon gastrointestinal symptoms and rectal mucosa in 15 HIV-infected subjects.


Treatment was associated with significant decreases in the perception of abdominal bloating and cramps. Similar declines in RNA burden and rises in CD4+ lymphocyte counts were found in blood and mucosa. Treatment was also associated with a fall in the number of lamina propria mononuclear cells undergoing apoptosis by in situ labeling, a change that correlated with the change in mucosal viral burden.


Peripheral blood and mucosal compartments are equally responsive to effective antiretroviral therapies. The detection of significant changes within 7 days of starting antiviral therapy implies that intestinal dysfunction may be a direct result of local HIV infection.

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