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AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2010 Sep;26(9):997-1005. doi: 10.1089/aid.2009.0263.

Low postseroconversion CD4 count and rapid decrease of CD4 density identify HIV+ fast progressors.

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Division of Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiology, University Hospital of Zurich, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


CD4 expression in HIV replication is paradoxical: HIV entry requires high cell-surface CD4 densities, but replication requires CD4 down-modulation. However, is CD4 density in HIV+ patients affected over time? Do changes in CD4 density correlate with disease progression? Here, we examined the role of CD4 density for HIV disease progression by longitudinally quantifying CD4 densities on CD4+ T cells and monocytes of ART-naive HIV+ patients with different disease progression rates. This was a retrospective study. We defined three groups of HIV+ patients by their rate of CD4+ T cell loss, calculated by the time between infection and reaching a CD4 level of 200 cells/microl: fast (<7.5 years), intermediate (7.5-12 years), and slow progressors (>12 years). Mathematical modeling permitted us to determine the maximum CD4+ T cell count after HIV seroconversion (defined as "postseroconversion CD4 count") and longitudinal profiles of CD4 count and density. CD4 densities were quantified on CD4+ T cells and monocytes from these patients and from healthy individuals by flow cytometry. Fast progressors had significantly lower postseroconversion CD4 counts than other progressors. CD4 density on T cells was lower in HIV+ patients than in healthy individuals and decreased more rapidly in fast than in slow progressors. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) did not normalize CD4 density. Thus, postseroconversion CD4 counts define individual HIV disease progression rates that may help to identify patients who might benefit most from early ART. Early discrimination of slow and fast progressors suggests that critical events during primary infection define long-term outcome. A more rapid CD4 density decrease in fast progressors might contribute to progressive functional impairments of the immune response in advanced HIV infection. The lack of an effect of ART on CD4 density implies a persistent dysfunctional immune response by uncontrolled HIV infection.

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