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Blood. 2004 Aug 15;104(4):942-7. Epub 2004 Apr 29.

Immune activation set point during early HIV infection predicts subsequent CD4+ T-cell changes independent of viral load.

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San Francisco General Hospital, 995 Potrero Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.


Although generalized T-cell activation is an important factor in chronic HIV disease pathogenesis, its role in primary infection remains poorly defined. To investigate the effect of immune activation on T-cell changes in subjects with early HIV infection, and to test the hypothesis that an immunologic activation "set point" is established early in the natural history of HIV disease, a prospective cohort of acutely infected adults was performed. The median density of CD38 molecules on CD4+ and CD8+ T cells was measured longitudinally in 68 antiretroviral-untreated individuals and 83 antiretroviral-treated individuals. At study entry, T-cell activation was positively associated with viremia, with CD8+ T-cell activation levels increasing exponentially at plasma HIV RNA levels more than 10,000 copies/mL. Among untreated patients, the level of CD8+ T-cell activation varied widely among individuals but often remained stable within a given individual. CD8+ T-cell activation and plasma HIV RNA levels over time were independently associated with the rate of CD4+ T-cell loss in untreated individuals. These data indicate that immunologic activation set point is established early in HIV infection, and that this set point determines the rate at which CD4+ T cells are lost over time.

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