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J Int AIDS Soc. 2015 Jun 29;18:20052. doi: 10.7448/IAS.18.1.20052. eCollection 2015.

CD4:CD8 ratio as a frontier marker for clinical outcome, immune dysfunction and viral reservoir size in virologically suppressed HIV-positive patients.

Lu W1,2,3, Mehraj V1,2, Vyboh K1,2, Cao W1,2,3, Li T3, Routy JP1,2,4.

Author information

Chronic Viral Illnesses Service, McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Division of Infectious Diseases, Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Beijing, China.
Division of Hematology, McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada;



Absolute CD4 T cell count and plasma viral load have been established as predictors of HIV disease progression, and CD4 T cell count is used as an indicator for initiation of antiretroviral therapy. Following long-term therapy, patients generally present with significant CD4 T cell recovery contrasting with persistently elevated CD8 T cell counts, which leads to a partial restoration of CD4:CD8 ratio. This review focuses on the relevance of the CD4:CD8 ratio on clinical outcomes, immune dysfunction and HIV reservoir size in long-term treated patients.


We conducted a comprehensive literature review of publications in English language using major electronic databases. Our search was focused on factors contributing to CD4:CD8 T cell ratio and clinical outcome in adult HIV-positive patients in the context of treated infection.


Low CD4:CD8 ratio has been linked to ageing and acts as a predictor of mortality in the general population. This ratio may represent the combined effects of inflammation and immunological changes called "inflammaging." Although the mechanisms underlying partial correction of the CD4:CD8 ratio and persistently elevated CD8 T cell count in long-term treated patients remain poorly understood, it has been recently indicated that patients with optimal CD4 T cell recovery and low CD4:CD8 ratio still harbour increased immune activation, an immune senescent phenotype and have a higher risk of non-AIDS morbidity and mortality. This review reconsiders CD4:CD8 ratio in the light of advances in the understanding of immune dysfunction and examines its pathophysiological features and implications on clinical outcome and HIV reservoir size in long-term treated HIV-positive adults.


The CD4:CD8 ratio can contribute to the immunological evaluation of treated patients in a long-term follow-up and may be applied for monitoring both immune dysfunction and viral reservoir size in immune-based clinical trials.


CD4:CD8 ratio; HIV infection; immune dysfunction; inflammation; viral reservoir

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