Maximum suppression of HIV replication leads to the restoration of HIV-specific responses in early HIV disease

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ObjectivesIt is predicted that HIV-infected individuals in early HIV disease are the most likely group to achieve immune reconstitution following highly active antiretroviral treatment. We assessed whether suppression of HIV replication in this group would improve immune function.MethodsSeventeen antiretroviral-naïve patients in early HIV disease were evaluated for immune function and lymphocyte phenotyping using standard immunological assays.ResultsAbsolute CD4+ T-cell number increased from a median of 550 to 800 × 106 cells/l while CD8+ T-cell numbers were reduced. The decrease in CD8+ cells correlated with a decrease in the CD8+ memory phenotype. Kinetics of CD4+ naïve and memory T-cell rise indicated that 80% of the maximum CD4+ naïve increase was achieved within 18 weeks whereas maximum CD4+ memory T-cell rise was achieved within 36 weeks. Activation markers (HLA-DR, CD38) and an apoptosis-related marker (CD95) were reduced on CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. Lymphocyte proliferation responses to tetanus toxoid, alloantigen, and anti-CD3/CD28 were restored in patients that were initially unresponsive. At baseline, 31% of the patients responded to HIV p24, which increased to 69% post-therapy. The inducible RANTES response was normalized following therapy whereas inducible interferon-γ, interleukin (IL)-12, and MIP1β were elevated. The depressed inducible IL-10 response, however, was not altered after therapy.ConclusionsThis is one of the first studies to demonstrate the restoration of HIV-1 specific responses in non-acute HIV infection, suggesting early intervention with potent antiretroviral therapy may reverse immune-mediated damage not seen with treated patients who have more advanced disease.

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