Objective: Immune changes occurring after primary HIV infection (PHI) have a pivotal relevance. Our objective was to characterize the polyfunctionality of immune response triggered by PHI, and to characterize immune activation and regulatory T cells, correlating such features to disease progression. Patients and Methods: We followed 11 patients experiencing PHI for 4 years. By polychromatic flow cytometry, we studied every month, for the first 6 months, T lymphocyte polyfunctionality after cell stimulation with peptides derived from HIV-1 gag and nef. Tregs were identified by flow cytometry, and T cell activation studied by CD38 and HLA-DR expression. Results: An increase of anti-gag and anti-nef CD8+ specific T cells was observed 3 months after PHI; however, truly polyfunctional T cells, also able to produce IL-2, were never found. No gross changes in Tregs were present. T lymphocyte activation was maximal 1 and 2 months after PHI, and significantly decreased in the following period. The level of activation two months after PHI was strictly correlated to the plasma viral load 1 year after infection, and significantly influenced the length of period without therapy. Indeed, 80% of patients with less than the median value of activated CD8+ (15.5%) or CD4+ (0.9%) T cells remained free of therapy for >46 months, while all patients over the median value had to start treatment within 26 months. Conclusions: T cell activation after PHI, more than T cell polyfunctionality or Tregs, is a predictive marker for the control of viral load and for the time required to start treatment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)