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J Immunol. 1992 Jul 15;149(2):689-97.

CD34+ bone marrow cells are infected with HIV in a subset of seropositive individuals.

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Laboratory of Immunoregulation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Individuals infected with HIV frequently develop cytopenias and suppressed hematopoiesis. The role of direct HIV infection of hematopoietic progenitor cells in this process has not been defined. In this study, purified CD34+ bone marrow progenitor cells from 74 Zairian and American patients were studied by both coculture viral isolation and polymerase chain reaction for evidence of HIV infection. A total of 36.5% of Zairian and 14% of American patients had HIV infection of the CD34+ cell subset, with as many as 1 in 500 CD34+ cells infected. Most of the Zairian patients in this study had advanced HIV infection and markedly decreased CD4/CD8 T lymphocyte ratios (mean 0.160 +/- 0.08), and no laboratory value predicted the presence of infection in the CD34+ subset of a given Zairian individual. In contrast, American patients with CD34+ cell infection had total CD4 cells less than 20/mm3 and a greater decrease of the CD4/CD8 T lymphocyte ratio compared to seropositive Americans without CD34+ cell infection (p = 0.003). Hematopoiesis, studied by methylcellulose colony assays, was depressed in all seropositive patients studied with no significant further suppression when CD34+ cells were infected. Thus, CD34+ bone marrow progenitor cells are infected in vivo in a subset of seropositive individuals and may serve as an additional reservoir of virus in HIV-infected individuals.

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