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Ann Intern Med. 1997 Jun 15;126(12):929-38.

Monitoring plasma HIV-1 RNA levels in addition to CD4+ lymphocyte count improves assessment of antiretroviral therapeutic response. ACTG 241 Protocol Virology Substudy Team.

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  • 1Harvard School of Public Health, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114-2698, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

CD4+ lymphocyte counts and plasma HIV-1 RNA levels predict progression of HIV-related disease, but the relative importance of these and other virological factors in defining response to antiretroviral therapy is not yet clear.

OBJECTIVE:

To determine the short-term variability of plasma HIV-1 RNA level during stable therapy; the relative importance of pretreatment values and early changes in CD4+ count, HIV-1 RNA levels, and infectious HIV-1 titers in mononuclear cells of peripheral blood and pretreatment syncytium-inducing phenotype of an HIV-1 isolate for prediction of disease progression and decline in CD4+ counts during therapy.

DESIGN:

Data were collected prospectively in a randomized, clinical trial comparing two combination regimens (ACTG [AIDS Clinical Trials Group] Protocol 241) and pooled across treatments.

SETTING:

8 AIDS Clinical Trials Units.

PATIENTS:

198 adults with HIV-1 infection and no more than 350 CD4+ lymphocytes/mm3 who had received at least 6 months of nucleoside therapy.

INTERVENTIONS:

All patients received zidovudine and didanosine; 100 received nevirapine and 98 received placebo.

MEASUREMENTS:

CD4+ lymphocyte counts, plasma HIV-1 RNA levels, and infectious HIV-1 titers in cells were measured before and 8 and 48 weeks after study treatment. Assay for the syncytium-inducing viral phenotype was done at baseline. Progression was defined as occurrence of opportunistic infection, malignancy, or death during the 48 weeks after treatment began.

RESULTS:

The difference between two measurements of HIV-1 RNA levels at baseline was within +/-0.39 log10 copies/mL (2.5-fold) for 90% of 167 patients receiving stable therapy. In a multivariate model, risk for disease progression was reduced by 56% (95% CI, 8% to 79% [P = 0.028]) for every 10-fold lower HIV-1 RNA level at baseline, by 52% (CI, 6% increase to 79% reduction [P = 0.071]) for every 10-fold reduction in HIV-1 RNA level at 8 weeks after treatment initiation, and by 67% (CI, 42% to 81% [P < 0.001]) for every 2-fold higher CD4+ count at baseline. These risk factors and syncytium-inducing viral phenotype at baseline, but not infectious HIV-1 titers in circulating cells, were associated with change in CD4+ counts over 48 weeks.

CONCLUSIONS:

For an individual patient, a change in plasma HIV-1 RNA level of 2.5-fold or more probably indicates a true biological change. Monitoring HIV-1 RNA levels and CD4+ lymphocytes before a change in antiretroviral treatment and monitoring HIV-1 RNA levels shortly thereafter improves prediction of disease progression and decline in CD4+ counts for 1 year compared with monitoring CD4+ counts of HIV-1 RNA levels alone. Additional monitoring of infectious HIV-1 titers in mononuclear cells of peripheral blood is not useful.

Comment in

PMID:
9182469
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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