Low-Level HIV Viremia Is Associated With Microbial Translocation and Inflammation

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Background:Decrease in HIV viral load (VL) is accompanied by decrease in microbial translocation (MT) and chronic inflammation, but the behavior of these markers in patients with HIV-VL <20 copies per milliliter is unknown. The aim of this study was to determine whether strict control of HIV-VL is associated with MT and chronic inflammation.Methods:Observational cross-sectional study. Inclusion criteria: HIV patients receiving antiretroviral therapy and HIV-VL <200 copies per milliliter for more than 6 months. Exclusion criteria: chronic liver disease, active infection, or antibiotic consumption. Recruitment: patients who consecutively visited the outpatient clinic in November 2011. Primary endpoint: molecular MT as determined by detection in plasma of 16S ribosomal DNA. Secondary variables: lipopolysaccharide, soluble CD14, tumor necrosis factor α, and interleukin 6. Primary explanatory variable: HIV-VL (COBAS AmpliPrep/COBAS TaqMan HIV-1 test, version 2.0) with a detection limit of 20 copies per milliliter.Results:Fifty-two patients were included: 65% men, median age 45 years, HIV acquired predominantly through sex (75%), 40% Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stage C, and median CD4 lymphocyte count 552 cells per cubic millimeter (range, 126–1640 cells/mm3). Molecular MT was observed in 46% and 18% of patients with low-level (20–200 copies/mL) and negative (<20 copies/mL) HIV-VL, respectively (P < 0.05). Plasma levels of inflammatory markers (tumor necrosis factor α and interleukin 6) were higher in patients with molecular MT (P < 0.01) and were not influenced for HIV-VL.Conclusions:Patients with HIV infection receiving treatment and negative HIV-VL (<20 copies/mL) present less frequently MT than patients with low-level HIV viremias (20–200 copies/mL). MT is associated with higher levels of inflammation markers, independent of HIV-VL.

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