Determinants of paradoxical CD4 cell reconstitution after protease inhibitor-containing antiretroviral regimen

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We evaluated the parameters influencing CD4 cell reconstitution after the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapies in real life, as well as the frequency and the determinants of the discrepancies occurring between virus and CD4 cell count evolution.

Design and methods:

A total of 317 pre-treated patients starting a protease inhibitor (PI)-containing regimen were prospectively followed for 2 years on an intent-to-treat basis for CD4 cell counts and viral loads.


The CD4 cell counts rapidly increased from baseline (50/mm3) by a median of 50/mm3 at month 2 (+0.72 CD4 cells/mm3/day) and up to 137/mm3 at the last follow-up (second slope: +0.16 CD4 cells/mm3/day). Two independent major factors among five parameters tested significantly affected the first phase, which was negatively correlated to the slope of CD4 cell decline before PI initiation, and was positively correlated to baseline CD4 cell counts (P=0.0001); the second phase was mostly affected by the mean viral load reduction over time (P=0.0001). Paradoxical CD4 cell reconstitution (15% of cases) was defined by a rapid or slow CD4 cell increase contrasting with a minor or strong viral reduction, respectively. The role of previous CD4 cell decline and the low effect of viral load reduction during the first 2 months explain the early paradoxical CD4 cell responses. The major influence of viral load reduction on the long-term reconstitution, however, reduces such paradoxical responses at 2 years.


Early paradoxical CD4 cell reconstitution after the introduction of a PI are explained by the major influence of previous disease progression on the early CD4 cell increase, whereas the magnitude of viral load reduction over time reduces such paradoxical evolutions in the long term.

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