Impact on the immune system of undetectable plasma HIV-1 RNA for more than 2 years

Albert Arnó, Lydia Ruiz, Manuel Juan, Moh'D Khalil Zayat, Teresa Puig, Montserrat Balagué, Joan Romeu, Ricardo Pujol, William A. O'Brien, Bonaventura Clotet

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39 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the impact of prolonged HIV suppression on the immune system by analysing the expression of several lymphocyte surface markers in a group of HIV-1-infected patients who maintained undetectable HIV-1 RNA levels for more than 24 months. Patients and methods: The study included a highly selected group of nine HIV-1-infected asymptomatic subjects and seven HIV-1-seronegative controls. The inclusion criteria of HIV-1-infected patients was to have plasma HIV-1 RNA levels below 20 (1.3 log10) copies/ml for at least 24 months while under antiretroviral treatment with nucleoside analogues. The patient population was retrospectively taken from a cohort of 1418 treated subjects. Mean initial absolute CD4+ T-cell count and percentage were 468 ± 234 x 106/l (range, 202-935 x 106/l) and 25 ± 6% (range, 16-33%), respectively. Plasma HIV-1 RNA quantification was determined using a standard and ultrasensitive reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assay. Median HIV-1 RNA plasma level before antiretroviral treatment was 3.14 log10 copies/ml (range, 1.74-3.73 log10 copies/ml). Two or three-colour immunophenotyping was performed on whole blood and frozen peripheral blood mononuclear cells by flow cytometry. Results: A significant increase was noted in CD4+ lymphocyte counts at the end of the study in HIV-1-positive patients. In addition, the CD4:CD8 ratio rose significantly with respect to baseline, although it remained lower than in the controls. CD45RA+ and CD45RO+ population percentages did not differ between groups. A significant rise in CD45RA+ T cells was observed. Analysis of T-cell activation measuring the expression of human leukocyte antigen-DR and CD25 did not differ between groups. The proportion of CD8+ lymphocytes that were CD28+ was similar in both groups at the end of the follow-up. T-cell receptor Vβ subfamily analysis showed that an expansion of the T-cell receptor repertoire might occur in these patients. Conclusion: Patients who maintain undetectable viral load for prolonged periods of time with antiretroviral therapy may achieve a partial immune restoration of the immune system. Our results suggest that treatment of patients at early stages of HIV infection is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-704
Number of pages8
Issue number7
StatePublished - 7 May 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Antiretroviral treatment
  • CD28 antigen
  • CD4+ T lymphocyte
  • CD45 antigen
  • CD8+ T lymphocyte
  • Immune restoration
  • Surface marker
  • T-cell receptor Vβ repertoire
  • Undetectable plasma HIV-1 RNA


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