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J Infect Dis. 2000 Apr;181(4):1479-82. Epub 2000 Apr 13.

Effect of HIV on thymic function before and after antiretroviral therapy in children.

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Department of Internal Medicine and Microbiology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75235-9113, USA.


Studies were undertaken to investigate the role of the thymus in T cell reconstitution in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected children treated with antiretroviral therapy. Nine pediatric patients who acquired HIV perinatally were treated with multidrug combinations of antiretroviral agents. Plasma virus load and CD4+ and CD8+ T cell subsets were measured, and thymus function was measured by quantifying T cell receptor rearrangement excision circles in peripheral blood. Patients with virus loads remaining >400 RNA copies/mL plasma were classified as virologic nonresponders. Thymus function was initially decreased in all subjects. After antiretrovirus therapy, peripheral CD4+ T cells increased in all subjects. Thymus function was restored in 4 of 5 virologic responders but in only 1 of 4 virologic nonresponders. This suggests that HIV has an adverse effect upon thymic function in pediatric HIV infection. Potent antiretroviral therapy restores thymic function but is affected by the degree to which virus suppression is achieved.

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