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AIDS. 2002 Jan 25;16(2):201-7.

Duration and predictors of CD4 T-cell gains in patients who continue combination therapy despite detectable plasma viremia.

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  • 1UCSF AIDS Program, University of California and San Francisco General Hospital, San Francisco, California 94110, USA. sdeeks@php.ucsf.edu



Sustained elevations in CD4 cell counts commonly occur despite incomplete viral suppression with protease inhibitor-based antiretroviral therapy.


To determine the incidence and risk factors associated with return of CD4 cell count to pre-therapy levels in patients experiencing virologic failure of protease inhibitor therapy.


This is a clinic-based cohort study of HIV-infected adults who failed to maintain durable viral suppression on a protease inhibitor-based regimen.


Virologic failure was defined as persistent plasma HIV RNA level > 500 copies/ml. Immunologic failure was defined as return of CD4 cell count to pre-therapy levels.


A total of 291 patients experienced virologic failure on a protease inhibitor-based regimen and had a treatment-mediated CD4 cell increase above pre-therapy levels at the time of virologic failure. If patient data were censored at the time a successful salvage regimen was initiated, then the median time to immunologic failure after the onset of virologic failure was 3 years. If patient data were also censored at the time therapy was discontinued, then 36.8% of the cohort experienced immunologic failure after 3 years of continuous virologic failure. The change in viral load from a pre-treatment baseline, and not the absolute level of viremia achieved, was a strong and independent predictor of immunologic failure. Discontinuing therapy was associated with immunologic failure independent of viral load changes.


Reduction in T CD4+ cell numbers may eventually occur during prolonged virologic failure of a protease inhibitor-based regimen and is predicted by the degree of virologic suppression below a pre-therapy 'set-point'.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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