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Clin Infect Dis. 2016 Apr 15;62(8):1029-1035. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciw030. Epub 2016 Feb 21.

Recent Thymus Emigrant CD4+ T Cells Predict HIV Disease Progression in Patients With Perinatally Acquired HIV.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Health Center, Houston, Texas.



Robust immune restoration in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive patients is dependent on thymic function. However, few studies have investigated thymic function and its correlation with disease progression over time in HIV-positive patients.


In this longitudinal prospective study, we followed 69 HIV-positive patients who were perinatally infected. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were stained with monoclonal anti-CD4 and anti-CD31 and recent thymic emigrants (CD4+recently emigrated from the thymus (RTE), CD4+CD31+) quantified by flow cytometry. Statistical analysis used Wilcoxon rank sum test, Kruskal-Wallis, Spearman correlation, and Kaplan-Meier estimates; Cox regression models were performed for the longitudinal analysis.


Median age of HIV positive patients enrolled was 13 years (interquartile range [IQR], 8.6). CD4+RTE% decreased with age and was higher in females. Median CD4+RTE% was 53.5%, IQR, 22.9. CD4+RTE% was closely related to CD4+% and absolute counts but independent of viral load and CD8+CD38+%. Antiretroviral compliance as well as higher nadir CD4+% were associated with higher CD4+RTE%. Low CD4+RTE% predicted poor progression of VL and CD4+% over time.


CD4+RTE% predicts disease progression and may reflect history of disease in HIV-positive patients and adolescents. They are easy to measure in the clinical setting and may be helpful markers in guiding treatment decisions.


CD31; HIV; patients; thymus

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