Despite being highly diverse, immunovirological status strongly correlates with clinical symptoms during primary HIV-1 infection: a cross-sectional study based on 674 patients enrolled in the ANRS CO 06 PRIMO cohort

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ObjectivesTo analyse immunovirological status during primary HIV-1 infection (PHI) according to contemporary clinical status and time since infection.MethodsPlasma HIV-RNA and peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) HIV-DNA levels and CD4 cell counts were determined at enrolment in the ANRS PRIMO cohort. Time since infection was estimated based on both the number of antibodies on western blot at enrolment (0–1, 2–4 or ≥5 specific antibodies) and the estimated interval between infection and enrolment based on clinical and epidemiological features. Patients were classified according to the presence or absence of clinical symptoms at enrolment.ResultsBetween 1996 and 2006, 674 patients were enrolled an estimated median of 47 days after infection. Median marker values were as follows: HIV-RNA 5.10 log10 copies/mL (range <1.70–8.33); HIV-DNA 3.30 log10 copies/106 PBMCs (<1.84–4.93); and 506 CD4 cells/mm3 (40–1542). Median HIV-RNA and PBMC HIV-DNA levels were significantly higher in patients with 0 or 1 specific antibody (n = 71) than in patients with 2–4 (n = 228) or ≥5 antibodies (n = 375). Symptomatic patients had significantly higher HIV-RNA and PBMC HIV-DNA levels and lower CD4 cell counts. However, 10% of symptomatic patients recruited shortly after infection had favourable immunovirological status.ConclusionsPlasma HIV-RNA, PBMC HIV-DNA and CD4 cell count values were highly diverse and correlated strongly with clinical status during PHI. Early diagnosis was not always associated with severe PHI. Combining PBMC HIV-DNA with HIV-RNA, CD4 cell count and clinical symptoms would have allowed identification of 179 patients (26.5%) at high risk of rapid disease progression who did not meet current guidelines for early treatment initiation.

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