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Direct HIV cytopathicity cannot account for CD4 decline in AIDS in the presence of homeostasis: a worst-case dynamic analysis.

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Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, San Francisco, California, USA.


The central paradox of HIV pathogenesis is that the viral burden, either free or cellular, seems too low to deplete the CD4 population by direct killing. Until recently, little data could be used to compare direct and indirect pathogenic theories critically. Clinical trials with potent new antiviral agents have measured important kinetic parameters of HIV infection, including viral and infected cell half-lives. This has led to the construction of explicit models of direct killing. Using a worst-case dynamic analysis, we show that such cytopathic models are untenable. Rates of infected cell removal are orders of magnitude too low to suppress steady state CD4 counts significantly in the face of lymphocyte replenishment, especially in early infection. Furthermore, the direct cytopathic models, as proposed, predict an extremely variable disease course across the broad range of observed viral burdens (five orders of magnitude), which is inconsistent with the relatively small differences in disease progression observed between patients. In contrast, immunologic theories of pathogenesis, such as homeostatic dysregulation based on immune activation, do not suffer from these difficulties and are more consistent with the natural history of HIV infection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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