Evaluation of HIV-1 p24 Antigenemia and Level of CD8+CD38+ T cells as Surrogate Markers of HIV-1 RNA Viral Load in HIV-1-Infected Patients in Dakar, Senegal

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Summary:Alternative, affordable, and simple assays to monitor antiretroviral therapy (ART) in resource-poor settings are needed. We have evaluated and compared a heat-denatured (HD) HIV p24 amplified enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay from Perkin-Elmer and CD38+CD8+ T-cell levels, determined by flow cytometry, for their capacity to predict viral load (VL) in HIV-1-infected patients from Senegal. Median fluorescence intensity (MFI) of CD38 expression on memory (CD45RO+) CD8+ T cells correlated better with RNA VL than HD p24 antigenemia (R = 0.576, P < 0.0001 vs R = 0.548, P < 0.0001). MFI of CD38 expression on memory CD8+ T cells could predict detectable RNA VL (VL = 2.6 log10) with a sensitivity of 87% and a specificity of 74%. A comparable sensitivity (89%) could be reached for HD p24 assay, but only to predict RNA VL of more than 5 logs, which might lead to unacceptable delays in clinical decision making. The clinical use of the HD p24 assay to monitor ART in Senegal would require more comparative data about the kinetics of p24 antigen and HIV RNA in peripheral blood as well as further evaluation regarding its sensitivity toward subtype A and CRF02. MFI of CD38 expression on memory CD8+ T cells appeared to be a better alternative to monitor ART in HIV-infected patients from Senegal.

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