Hepatitis C virus genotype and HIV coinfection affect cytokine mRNA levels in unstimulated PBMC but do not shift the T1/T2 balance

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Rapid progression of hepatitis C virus (HCV) disease in patients with HIV/HCV may reflect different cytokine responses and be influenced by HCV genotype. This is addressed by a study of patients with HIV/HCV coinfection and infection with HCV genotype 2 or 3 (2/3). They are compared with coinfected patients infected with genotype 1 and HCV monoinfected patients matched for HCV genotype. IFN-γ, IL-10, IL-4 and IL-4δ2 mRNA were quantified by real-time PCR in unstimulated PBMC and after in vitro stimulation with HCV core or nonstructural 3/4A antigen. In unstimulated PBMC, levels of IFN-γ and IL-4 mRNA were lowest in HIV/HCV genotype 1 patients, intermediate in HIV/HCV genotype 2/3 patients and highest in HCV genotype 2/3 patients. Neither HCV genotype nor HIV affected levels of IL-10 mRNA in unstimulated PBMC or IFN-γ, IL-4 and IL-10 mRNA in PBMC stimulated with HCV antigens. Levels of IL-4 and IL-4δ2 mRNA correlated in mitogen-stimulated PBMC from all patient groups but both were low in HIV/HCV genotype 1 patients. Serum soluble CD30 levels (a putative marker of a T2 cytokine environment) did not differ between patient groups. The data do not suggest a shift in the T1/T2 balance driven by HIV coinfection or HCV genotype but either may affect IL-4 bioavailability.

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