Lymphoproliferative immune function in the Sydney Blood Bank Cohort, infected with natural nef/long terminal repeat mutants, and in other long-term survivors of transfusion-acquired HIV-1 infection

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Objectives:To assess T-helper cell immune function (proliferation) in members of the Sydney Blood Bank Cohort (SBBC) compared with other individuals with transfusion- and sexually acquired HIV-1 infection and with matched HIV-negative controls.Design and methods:Decreasing CD4 counts and T-helper cell function are associated with disease progression. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from study subjects were assayed for in vitro proliferative responses to HIV-1-derived antigens, recall antigens and alloantigen. T-helper cell function and CD4 counts in members of the SBBC were followed longitudinally.Results:Proliferative responses and CD4 counts from members of the SBBC were similar to or better than those of other transfusion- or sexually-acquired HIV-1-positive long-term non-progressors (LTNP), including the HIV-negative matched SBBC control groups. However, individuals with disease progression had reduced or undetectable proliferative responses to recall antigens but a conserved response to alloantigen; they also had low CD4 counts and low CD4 : CD8 ratios. In the SBBC, these immune parameters were usually stable over time.Conclusions:The unique SBBC with natural nef/long terminal repeat deletions in the HIV-1 genome were genuine LTNP without showing signs of disease progression. They appeared to be a group distinct from the tail-end of the normal distribution of disease progression rates, and may remain asymptomatic indefinitely. The SBBC virus may form the basis of a live attenuated immunotherapeutic or immunoprophylactic HIV vaccine.

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