HIV-1 p24 Antigen Is a Significant Inverse Correlate of CD4 T-Cell Change in Patients With Suppressed Viremia Under Long-Term Antiretroviral Therapy

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Summary:An HIV-1 p24 antigen test involving signal amplification-boosted ELISA of heat-denatured plasma was evaluated prospectively in 55 patients whose viral RNA in plasma had previously been suppressed for at least 6 months under antiretroviral combination therapy. During a median follow-up of 504 days, CD4 counts increased by a median of 62 cells per year. By univariate and multivariate linear regression analysis, the level of p24 antigen as expressed by the absorbance/cutoff ratio was a significant inverse correlate of both the CD4 count in a sample (p = .013) and its annual change in a patient (p < .0001). The p24 antigen retained significance even among 48 individuals whose HIV-1 RNA, apart from occasional blips, remained below 400 copies/mL. Batch-wise retesting of 70 samples from 5 such patients with a further improved procedure showed measurable p24 antigen in all but 1 sample and an inverse correlation with both the CD4 count (p = .0331) and percentage (p < .0001), thus confirming the prospectively generated data. Comparison of p24 antigen and HIV-1 RNA concentrations indicate that the p24 antigen detected in these samples is not associated with viral RNA-containing particles and may originate from other compartments of virus expression.

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