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AIDS. 1998 Dec 24;12(18):2387-96.

Immune activation in HIV-infected African individuals. Italian-Ugandan AIDS cooperation program.

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I Divisione di Malattie Infettive, Università di Milano, Milan, Italy.



Immune activation induced by chronic infections, dietary limitations, and poor hygienic conditions is suggested to be present in African HIV infection and is at the basis of the hypothesis that HIV infection in Africa could be prevalently associated with immunopathogenetic mechanisms. Very limited data are nevertheless available supporting this theory, and in particular no data are reported on functional and phenotypic analyses performed on fresh peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of African HIV-infected patients living in Africa.


Immunological and virological parameters were analysed in fresh PBMC of HIV-infected African and Italian patients with advanced HIV disease and comparable CD4 and CD8 counts, sex, and age. Both functional (antigen- and mitogen-stimulated cytokine production) and phenotypic (activation markers; markers preferentially expressed by T helper (Th) type 2 cells or by memory and naive cells) analyses were performed. Results were compared with those of HIV-seronegative African and Italian controls. HIV plasma viraemia was analysed by competitive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and branched DNA techniques.


(1) The production of mitogen-stimulated IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha as well as the production of env peptide-stimulated IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, and IL-10 are increased in African HIV infection; (2) the expression of activation and Th2-associated markers is augmented in African HIV infection as is the memory/naive ratio; (3) mitogen-stimulated IFN-gamma and IL-10 production, as well as the expression of activation and Th2-associated markers and the memory/naive ratio, are augmented in African compared with Italian controls; and (4) plasma viraemia is reduced in African compared with Italian HIV-infected individuals.


These results, which are the first to be reported on fresh material from African HIV-infected patients living in Africa, indicate that HIV disease is associated with an abnormal immune hyperactivation and may be accompanied in these patients by lower loads of virus, and show that such activation is present even in HIV-seronegative controls.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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