Prognostic significance of plasma markers of immune activation, HIV viral load and CD4 T-cell measurements

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To evaluate the prognostic significance for AIDS occurrence of plasma levels of immune activation markers in comparison with and in conjunction with HIV viral load and CD4 T-cell measurements.


A retrospective analysis was conducted of three plasma activation markers, the soluble tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor II (TNF-RII), neopterin and soluble interleukin-2 receptor levels, and of CD4 T-cell levels and plasma HIV viral load.


The participants were 659 men taking part in the University of California Los Angeles Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study who were HIV-seropositive but AIDS-free in 1985.

Main outcome measure:

Clinically defined AIDS within 3 years. Failure time statistical regression models for the time to development of AIDS were used to assess prognostic capacity of the parameters alone and in combination.


All the markers had prognostic capability. The levels of the three plasma activation markers correlated well with each other (median r = 0.61). They related less well with HIV RNA plasma levels (median r = 0.50) and least well with CD4 cell levels (median r = 0.36). Furthermore, plasma marker levels were shown to be able to stratify patients for prognosis within all the major categories of CD4 T-cell and HIV RNA levels.


Plasma levels of soluble TNF-RII and other soluble markers of immune activation have prognostic capabilities which are different from HIV and CD4 T-cell levels. Combination of a single plasma activation marker measurement (such as soluble TNF-RII) with CD4 T-cell levels improved the prognostic capability of each. A new graphic technique for presenting prognostic capability indicated that plasma soluble TNF-RII and CD4 cell levels are better prognostic factors than HIV plasma level with CD4 cells < 200 × 106/l. Inexpensive tests for one of the plasma activation markers, such as soluble TNF-RII or neopterin, can be useful for evaluations of HIV disease course, especially when expensive equipment, technical expertise and funding required for flow cytometry and for HIV load measurements are not readily available.

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