Effective highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 is associated with virus suppression and immune reconstitution. However, in some patients, this reconstitution is partial or incomplete because CD4+ cell counts do not increase significantly. This may be due to damage in the microenvironment of lymphoid tissues (LTs), where CD4+ T cells reside. To test this hypothesis, LT samples were obtained from 23 patients enrolled in a prospective trial that compared 3 different HAART regimens. Analysis of LT architecture and CD4+ T cells populations revealed abnormalities in 100% of the LT samples, especially in the follicles, with 43% showing absence, 14% showing regression, and 43% showing hyperplasia. CD4+ T cell populations were abnormal in 16 (89%) of 18 tissue samples, with 7 (39%) of 18 decreased by >50% of normal levels. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that persistent abnormalities in the microenvironment can influence immune reconstitution and document persistent LT abnormalities with HAART not detected by measures of peripheral CD4+ T cell count.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Financial support: International Antiviral Therapy Evaluation Centre; Great Lakes Regional Center for AIDS Research; National Institutes of Health (grant 1P30-CA79458-01).