Human immunodeficiency virus-specific CD8+ T-cell activity is detectable from birth in the majority of in utero-infected infants.
Thobakgale CF., Ramduth D., Reddy S., Mkhwanazi N., de Pierres C., Moodley E., Mphatswe W., Blanckenberg N., Cengimbo A., Prendergast A., Tudor-Williams G., Dong K., Jeena P., Kindra G., Bobat R., Coovadia H., Kiepiela P., Walker BD., Goulder PJ.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected infants in sub-Saharan Africa typically progress to AIDS or death by 2 years of life in the absence of antiretroviral therapy. This rapid progression to HIV disease has been related to immaturity of the adaptive immune response in infants. We screened 740 infants born to HIV-infected mothers and tracked development and specificity of HIV-specific CD8+ T-cell responses in 63 HIV-infected infants identified using gamma interferon enzyme-linked immunospot assays and intracellular cytokine staining. Forty-four in utero-infected and 19 intrapartum-infected infants were compared to 45 chronically infected children >2 years of age. Seventy percent (14 of 20) in utero-infected infants tested within the first week of life demonstrated HIV-specific CD8+ T-cell responses. Gag, Pol, and Nef were the principally targeted regions in chronic pediatric infection. However, Env dominated the overall response in one-third (12/36) of the acutely infected infants, compared to only 2/45 (4%) of chronically infected children (P = 0.00083). Gag-specific CD4+ T-cell responses were minimal to undetectable in the first 6 months of pediatric infection. These data indicate that failure to control HIV replication in in utero-infected infants is not due to an inability to induce responses but instead suggest secondary failure of adaptive immunity in containing this infection. Moreover, the detection of virus-specific CD8+ T-cell responses in the first days of life in most in utero-infected infants is encouraging for HIV vaccine interventions in infants.