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PLoS One. 2010 Nov 29;5(11):e14119. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014119.

Qualitative immune modulation by interleukin-2 (IL-2) adjuvant therapy in immunological non responder HIV-infected patients.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, San Gerardo Hospital, University of Milan-Bicocca, Monza, Italy. f.sabbatini@hsgerardo.org



Treatment of HIV-infected patients with interleukin-2 (IL-2) produces significant increases in CD4 T cell counts; however an associated qualitative improvement in cells function has yet to be conclusively demonstrated. By measuring mycobacterial killing activity, we evaluated IL-2-mediated functional immune enhancement ex vivo in immunological non-responders (INRs).


PBMC from 12 immunological non-responders (INRs) (CD4+<200/µl, HIV-RNA<50 cp/ml) on combination antiretroviral treatment (cART) were collected at baseline, and after 3 IL-2 cycles. Eight INRs receiving only cART were studied as controls. After 21 days of PBMC incubation with a virulent M. avium suspension, counts of residual colony forming units (CFUs) and concentrations of TNF-α, IL-10 and IFN-γ were determined. In IL-2 treated patients, a significant reduction in mean residual CFUs of PBMC cultures was observed (p<0.01). Moreover, following IL-2 treatment, significant increases in PBMC's IFNγ production (p = 0.02) and substantial reductions in IL-10 levels were observed.


IL-2 therapy restores the ability of the lympho-monocyte system in eliciting an effective response against mycobacterial infections. Our data indicate the possibility of a clinical role held by IL-2 in enhancing the immune function of subjects unable to achieve immune competence through cART alone.

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