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J Infect Dis. 2005 May 1;191(9):1451-9. Epub 2005 Mar 30.

Dendritic and natural killer cell subsets associated with stable or declining CD4+ cell counts in treated HIV-1-infected children.

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Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-4268, USA.



Natural killer (NK) cells and plasmacytoid and myeloid dendritic cells (DCs) are depleted, and their function impaired, in advanced adult human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 infection. Studies in perinatally infected children are lacking.


Percentages of NK cells and plasmacytoid and myeloid DCs were evaluated by flow cytometry. Forty children with perinatal HIV-1 infection were compared with 11 age-matched, uninfected children. Plasmacytoid and myeloid DC function was evaluated by activation-induced cytokine secretion.


Virally suppressed children had normal levels of circulating plasmacytoid and myeloid DCs and total NK cells but had sustained depletion of a mature (CD3-/161+/56+/16+) NK cell subset and decreased interferon- alpha secretion by plasmacytoid DCs. Despite similar viral loads, percentages of myeloid and plasmacytoid DCs and mature NK cells were significantly lower in viremic children with a history of decreasing CD4+ cell percentages, compared with children with stable CD4+ cell counts.


Children achieve partial reconstitution of myeloid and plasmacytoid DCs and NK cells during viral suppression; irrespective of viral load, a clinical history of decreasing CD4+ cell percentage is associated with greater depletion of these subsets. We hypothesize that the evaluation of selected innate-immunity effector cells may serve as a marker of CD4+ cell loss in pediatric HIV-1 infection.

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