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J Clin Invest. 1995 Aug;96(2):867-76.

ENV-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte responses in HIV seronegative health care workers occupationally exposed to HIV-contaminated body fluids.

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  • 1Experimental Immunology Branche, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Identification of the components of protective immunity are crucial for the development of effective prophylactic and therapeutic vaccine strategies. Analysis of HIV-specific responses in exposed but uninfected individuals might thus provide a unique resource to elucidate the components and correlates of protective immunity to HIV. In the present study we analyzed HIV-specific cytotoxic and helper T lymphocyte responses in health care workers (HCW) exposed to body fluids from HIV-positive individuals. HCW exposed to blood from HIV-negative individuals as well as healthy donors served as controls. Cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses to HIV envelope (env) peptides were detected in 7/20 (35%) HCW exposed to HIV-positive blood and in none of the 20 health care workers exposed to uninfected blood or the seven healthy blood donors studied. HIV-specific CTL responses were detected only after in vitro stimulation, and were MHC class I restricted. No MHC class I restriction elements were uniformly identified among the different responders. 21/28 (75%) HCW exposed to contaminated blood responded to env as measured by IL-2 production to the peptides, in contrast to only 9/38 (24%) HCW exposed to HIV seronegative blood and 3/35 (9%) healthy blood donors. All the HIV exposed individuals were seronegative on repeated ELISA tests, and no evidence of infection was obtained by PCR analysis. These findings indicate that a single exposure to HIV can induce CTL immunity to HIV antigens, in the absence of other evidence of infection.

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