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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Sep 16;94(19):10289-94.

Severe genital herpes infections in HIV-infected individuals with impaired herpes simplex virus-specific CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocyte responses.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


The specific mechanisms underlying the varied susceptibility of HIV-infected (HIV+) individuals to opportunistic infections (OI) are still incompletely understood. One hypothesis is that quantitative differences in specific T cell responses to a colonizing organism determine the development of an AIDS-defining OI. We evaluated this hypothesis for herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection, a common OI in HIV+ patients. Using limiting dilution analyses, the frequency of HSV-specific CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocyte precursors (pCTL) and proliferative precursors were quantitated in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 20 patients coinfected with HIV and HSV-2. The frequency of HSV-specific CD8+ pCTL in HSV+HIV+ individuals was significantly lower than in HSV+HIV- individuals (1 in 77,000 vs. 1 in 6,000, P = .0005) and was not different than in HSV-HIV- individuals (1 in 100,000, P = .24). HIV+ patients who suffered more severe genital herpes recurrences had significantly lower HSV-specific CD8+ pCTL frequencies than those patients with mild recurrences (1 in 170,000 vs. 1 in 26,000, P = .03). In contrast, no significant difference was seen in proliferative precursor frequencies between those patients with mild vs. severe genital herpes (1 in 3,800 vs. 1 in 6,600, P > .5). Quantitative differences in pCTL frequency to HSV appear to be the most important host factor influencing the frequency and severity of HSV reactivation in HIV+ patients. Studies to reconstitute such immunity, especially in people with acyclovir-resistant HSV, appear warranted.

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