Many individuals chronically infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) experience a recrudescence of plasma virus during continuous combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) due either to the emergence of drug-resistant viruses or to poor compliance. In most cases, virologic failure on ART is associated with a coincident decline in CD4+ T lymphocyte levels. However, a proportion of discordant individuals retain a stable or even increasing CD4+ T lymphocyte count despite virological failure. In order to address the nature of these different outcomes, we evaluated virologic and immunologic variables in a prospective, single-blinded, nonrandomized cohort of 53 subjects with chronic HIV-1 infection who had been treated with continuous ART and monitored intensively over a period of 19 months. In all individuals with detectable viremia on ART, multiple drug resistance mutations with similar impacts on viral growth kinetics were detected in the pol gene of circulating plasma virus. Further, C2V3 env gene analysis demonstrated sequences indicative of CCR5 coreceptor usage in the majority of those with detectable plasma viremia. In contrast to this homogeneous virologic pattern, comprehensive screening with a range of antigens derived from HIV-1 revealed substantial immunologic differences. Discordant subjects with stable CD4+ T lymphocyte counts in the presence of recrudescent virus demonstrated potent virus-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocyte responses. In contrast, subjects with virologic failure associated with declining CD4+ T lymphocyte counts had substantially weaker HIV-specific CD4+ T lymphocyte responses and exhibited a trend towards weaker HIV-specific CD8+ T lymphocyte responses. Importantly the CD4+ response was sustained over periods as long as 11 months, confirming the stability of the phenomenon. These correlative data lead to the testable hypothesis that the consequences of viral recrudescence during continuous ART are modulated by the HIV-specific cellular immune response.
Price, D.A.; Scullard, G.; Oxenius, A.; Braganza, R.; Beddows, S.A.; Kazmi, S.; Clarke, J.R.; Johnson, G.E.; Weber, J.N.; Phillips, R.E. Discordant Outcomes following Failure of Antiretroviral Therapy Are Associated with Substantial Differences in Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Specific Cellular Immunity. Journal of Virology (2003) 77 (10) 6041-6049. [DOI: 10.1128/JVI.77.10.6041-6049.2003]