Immune recovery in HIV-infected patients after Candida esophagitis is impaired despite long-term antiretroviral therapy


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Abstract

Objective:Candida esophagitis belongs to the most common AIDS-defining diseases; however, a comprehensive immune pathogenic concept is lacking.Design:We investigated the immune status of 37 HIV-1-infected patients from the Swiss HIV cohort study at diagnosis of Candida esophagitis, 1 year before, 1 year later and after 2 years of suppressed HIV RNA. We compared these patients with three groups: 37 HIV-1-infected patients without Candida esophagitis but similar CD4+ cell counts as the patients at diagnosis (advanced HIV group), 15 HIV-1-infected patients with CD4+ cell counts higher than 500 cells/μl, CD4+ cell nadirs higher than 350 cells/μl and suppressed HIV RNA under combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) (early cART group) and 20 healthy individuals.Methods:We investigated phenotype, cytokine production and proliferative capacity of different immune cells by flow cytometry and enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot.Results:We found that patients with Candida esophagitis had nearly abolished CD4+ cell proliferation in response to Candida albicans, significantly increased percentages of dysfunctional CD4+ cells, significantly decreased cytotoxic natural killer cell counts and peripheral innate lymphoid cell counts and significantly reduced IFN-γ and IL-17 production compared with the early cART group and healthy individuals. Most of these defects remained for more than 2 years despite viral suppression. The advanced HIV group without opportunistic infection showed partly improved immune recovery.Conclusion:Our data indicate that Candida esophagitis in HIV-1-infected patients is caused by an accumulation of multiple, partly Candida-specific immunological defects. Long-term immune recovery is impaired, illustrating that specific immunological gaps persist despite cART. These data also support the rationale for early cART initiation to prevent irreversible immune defects.

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