Detection of HIV type 1 gag-specific CD4(+) T cell responses in acutely infected infants.
Ramduth D., Thobakgale CF., Mkhwanazi NP., De Pierres C., Reddy S., van der Stok M., Mncube Z., Mphatswe W., Blanckenberg N., Cengimbo A., Prendergast A., Tudor-Williams G., Dong K., Jeena P., Coovadia HM., Day CL., Kiepiela P., Goulder PJR., Walker BD.
Multiple HIV-1-specific cytokine and proliferative responses by CD4(+) T cells have not been studied in acutely infected infants. Using an intracellular cytokine staining assay, 34 untreated clade C HIV-1-infected infants (2-102 days old) were assessed for IFN-gamma, 28/34 for IL-2, and 26/34 for TNF-alpha responses to all HIV-1 proteins. Responses were detected in 29%, 36%, and 15% of infants, respectively. Twelve of the original 34 infants were then studied longitudinally for 14 months to determine the effect of viral load on IFN-gamma Gag-specific responses: seven infants were treated for 1 year, stopped treatment, and resumed when CD4% was < 20 and five infants were treated only when the CD4% was <20. Following treatment cessation, there was an immediate increase in viral load followed by an increase in the magnitude of CD4(+) Gag-specific responses. Despite this, the majority of infants (54%) had to restart treatment by 24 months of age, indicating that the immune responses were antigen driven but not associated with protection. Among untreated infants HIV-specific CD4(+) responses were detected sporadically indicating a dysfunctional immune response in the face of constant exposure to high levels of viremia.