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1.  HIV-1 clade C infection and Progressive Disruption in the Relationship Between Cortisol, DHEAS and CD4 cell numbers: A two-year follow-up study 
It is well established that there is mutual interaction between the neuroendocrines and immune systems and that the disturbance in any one system could affect the function of the other. While there is a large body of evidence suggesting negative impact of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 B (HIV-1B) infection on both immune and neuroendocrine systems, the consequence of HIV-1 clade C infection (with structural differences from HIV-1B virus) on these systems is not clearly understood.
We carried out a 2-y longitudinal study on plasma profile of adrenocorticosteroids, including cortisol and DHEAS and their relationship with declining CD4+ cell counts in neurologically asymptomatic HIV-C infected individuals (N=84) in order to understand the impact of HIV-1 clade C infection on adrenocortical dysfunction and its relationship with the progressive decline in the cell mediated immunity.
We found that while plasma cortisol levels increased significantly at baseline in HIV-1C infected individuals compared to those in HIV-negative controls (HIV-1C+, 9.83±0.39 vs. controls, 8.04±0.45; p< 0.01), there was a significant decrease in DHEAS in HIV-1C+ individuals, compared to that in HIV-negative controls (81.02 ± 4.9 vs. 185.1±12.03, p< 0.001), and consequently a significant increase in cortisol:DHEAS (Cortisol:DHEAS) ratio in HIV-1 clade C infected persons (0.19±0.002 vs. control 0.058±0.006; p<.0.001). Moreover, in HIV-1 C infected individuals, there was a strong positive correlation between DHEAS and CD4 cells (r=0.2; p<0.05), and a strong negative correlation between cortisol, as well as Cortisol:DHEAS ratio and CD4 cells (r= −0.25; p<0.01; and r= −0.31; p<0.001, respectively).
These findings suggest the persistent and progressive adrenocorical dysfunction during the asymptomatic phase of HIV infection, and that the evaluation of increase in plasma cortisol, a decrease in DHEAS, and an increase in Cortisol:DHEAS ratio may serve as important biomarkers preceding the impending down regulation of CD4 cell counts and progressive decline in the immune system function in HIV-1C infection. Furthermore, these findings may indicate the dysregulation of 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3β-HSD) activity, the enzyme involved in the biosynthesis of cortisol and DHEA through the pregnenolone-progesterone pathway, and that it may offer an opportunity for drug discovery targeting re-regulation of 3β-HSD activity for potential therapeutic application in HIV-1 C infection.
PMCID: PMC3980952  PMID: 19576195
HIV-1; Clade C; Cortisol; Cortisol:DHEAS (C/D) ratio; DHEAS; CD4 cell count; CD4:CD8 ratio; Body mass index (BMI); HAART
2.  Decreased levels of dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate in severe critical illness: a sign of exhausted adrenal reserve? 
Critical Care  2002;6(5):434-438.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulphate (DHEAS) are pleiotropic adrenal hormones with immunostimulating and antiglucocorticoid effects. The present study was conducted to evaluate the time course of DHEAS levels in critically ill patients and to study their association with the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis.
Materials and method
This was a prospective observational clinical and laboratory study, including 30 patients with septic shock, eight patients with multiple trauma, and 40 age- and sex-matched control patients. We took serial measurements of blood concentrations of DHEAS, cortisol, tumour necrosis factor-α and IL-6, and of adrenocorticotrophic hormone immunoreactivity over 14 days or until discharge/death.
On admission, DHEAS was extremely low in septic shock (1.2 ± 0.8 mol/l) in comparison with multiple trauma patients (2.4 ± 0.5 μmol/l; P < 0.05) and control patients (4.2 ± 1.8; P < 0.01). DHEAS had a significant (P < 0.01) negative correlation with age, IL-6 and Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II scores in both patient groups. Only during the acute phase did DHEAS negatively correlate with dopamine. Nonsurvivors of septic shock (n = 11) had lower DHEAS levels (0.4 ± 0.3 μmol/l) than did survivors (1.7 ± 1.1 μmol/l; P < 0.01). The time course of DHEAS exhibited a persistent depletion during follow up, whereas cortisol levels were increased at all time points.
We identified extremely low DHEAS levels in septic shock and, to a lesser degree, in multiple trauma patients as compared with those of age- and sex-matched control patients. There appeared to be a dissociation between DHEAS (decreased) and cortisol (increased) levels, which changed only slightly over time. Nonsurvivors of sepsis and patients with relative adrenal insufficiency had the lowest DHEAS values, suggesting that DHEAS might be a prognostic marker and a sign of exhausted adrenal reserve in critical illness.
PMCID: PMC130144  PMID: 12398784
adrenal insufficiency; dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate; multiple trauma; hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis; sepsis
3.  Usefulness of Alternate Prognostic Serum and Plasma Markers for Antiretroviral Therapy for Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Infection▿  
In developing countries, the usability of peripheral blood constituents that are low-cost alternatives to CD4-positive (CD4+) T-cell and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) RNA estimation should be evaluated as prognostic markers. The aim of our study was to investigate the use of plasma levels of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), albumin, and C-reactive protein (CRP) as alternate prognostic markers for antiretroviral treatment (ART) response in place of HIV-1 load measurements. Paired blood samples were collected from 30 HIV-infected individuals before and after initiation of ART, 13 HIV-infected individuals before and after completion of antituberculosis therapy (ATT), and 10 HIV-infected individuals not on either ATT or ART. Because of the nonavailability of samples, the CRP estimation was done for samples from only 19, 9, and 8 individuals in groups 1, 2, and 3, respectively. The measurements of all three markers, i.e., DHEAS, albumin, and CRP, were carried out with commercial assays. The differences in the albumin levels before and after ART or ATT were significant (P < 0.05), while the differences in DHEAS and CRP levels were not significant (P > 0.05). When levels of DHEAS among the individuals who were followed up were analyzed, 13 (44.8%) in the ART group and 9 (69%) in the ATT group showed an increase following treatment. Prior to treatment of HIV-infected individuals, there was a significant positive correlation of CD4+ T-cell counts and a negative correlation of viral load with albumin and DHEAS levels (P < 0.01). Among the three plasma markers we tested, plasma albumin and, to some extent, DHEAS show promise as prognostic markers in monitoring HIV infection.
PMCID: PMC2223864  PMID: 18003813
4.  Mycobacterial Antigen Driven Activation of CD14++CD16− Monocytes Is a Predictor of Tuberculosis-Associated Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(10):e1004433.
Paradoxical tuberculosis-associated immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (TB-IRIS) is an aberrant inflammatory response occurring in a subset of TB-HIV co-infected patients initiating anti-retroviral therapy (ART). Here, we examined monocyte activation by prospectively quantitating pro-inflammatory plasma markers and monocyte subsets in TB-HIV co-infected patients from a South Indian cohort at baseline and following ART initiation at the time of IRIS, or at equivalent time points in non-IRIS controls. Pro-inflammatory biomarkers of innate and myeloid cell activation were increased in plasma of IRIS patients pre-ART and at the time of IRIS; this association was confirmed in a second cohort in South Africa. Increased expression of these markers correlated with elevated antigen load as measured by higher sputum culture grade and shorter duration of anti-TB therapy. Phenotypic analysis revealed the frequency of CD14++CD16− monocytes was an independent predictor of TB-IRIS, and was closely associated with plasma levels of CRP, TNF, IL-6 and tissue factor during IRIS. In addition, production of inflammatory cytokines by monocytes was higher in IRIS patients compared to controls pre-ART. These data point to a major role of mycobacterial antigen load and myeloid cell hyperactivation in the pathogenesis of TB-IRIS, and implicate monocytes and monocyte-derived cytokines as potential targets for TB-IRIS prevention or treatment.
Author Summary
Tuberculosis and HIV majorly impact host immune responses, resulting in immune deregulation and inflammation-driven tissue damage. Initiation of anti-retroviral therapy in patients with HIV-TB co-infection may result in immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (TB-IRIS), a disorder associated with increased immunopathology due to unfettered inflammation after CD4+ T-cell reconstitution. Monocytes are critical to the innate immune system and play an important role in several inflammatory conditions associated with chronic infections. Immunopathogenesis of TB-IRIS has been linked to activation of the adaptive immune response against opportunistic infection, yet the role of monocytes is still unknown. Here we investigated associations between soluble markers of monocyte activation, differential activation of monocyte subsets and TB-IRIS prospectively in two geographically distinct HIV-TB co-infected patient cohorts. Prior to ART initiation, patients who developed IRIS displayed a biosignature of elevated soluble monocyte activation markers, which were closely related to the mycobacterial antigen load in sputum samples. Amongst monocyte subsets, we observed that pre-ART circulating CD14++CD16− cell frequency independently predicted TB-IRIS and expanded during IRIS events. This monocyte subset was tightly associated with systemic markers of inflammation, and was found to produce inflammatory cytokines. Identification of this monocyte subset and its link with inflammation may lead to conception of novel therapies reducing immunopathology in TB-IRIS.
PMCID: PMC4183698  PMID: 25275318
5.  Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection and Levels of Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate in Plasma among Indians 
The shift in cytokine profile during human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease progression is influenced by dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) level. Radioimmunoassay was used to measure plasma DHEAS for 30 treatment-naïve HIV-infected and 30 uninfected individuals. There was a significant negative correlation of viral load with DHEAS level (P < 0.05). Further studies of the use of DHEAS levels for monitoring HIV patients economically are warranted.
PMCID: PMC1235806  PMID: 16148181
6.  Concurrent Change in Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate and Functional Performance in the Oldest Old: Results From the Cardiovascular Health Study All Stars Study 
The correlation between dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) decline and age led to the hypothesis that DHEAS might be a marker of primary aging, though conflicting data from observational studies of mortality do not support this. We evaluated concurrent DHEAS and functional decline in a very old cohort to test if DHEAS change tracks with functional change during aging.
DHEAS and functional performance (gait speed, grip strength, Modified Mini-Mental State Examination [3MSE] score, and digit symbol substitution test [DSST] score) were measured in 1996–1997 and 2005–2006 in 989 participants in the Cardiovascular Health Study All Stars study (mean age 85.2 years in 2005–2006, 63.5% women and 16.5% African American). We used multivariable linear regression to test the association of DHEAS decline with functional decline.
After adjustment, each standard deviation decrease in DHEAS was associated with greater declines in gait speed (0.12 m/s, p = .01), grip strength (0.09 kg, p = .03), 3MSE score (0.13 points, p < .001), and DSST score (0.14 points, p = .001) in women only. Additional adjustment for baseline DHEAS attenuated the association with grip strength but did not alter other estimates appreciably, and baseline DHEAS was unassociated with functional decline.
In this cohort of very old individuals, DHEAS decline tracked with declines in gait speed, 3MSE score, and DSST score, but not grip strength, in women independent of baseline DHEAS level. DHEAS decline might be a marker for age-associated performance decline, but its relevance is specific to women.
PMCID: PMC2920580  PMID: 20466773
Aging; Biomarker; Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate; Function
7.  Dehydroepiandrosterone and age-related cognitive decline 
Age  2009;32(1):61-67.
In humans the circulating concentrations of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and DHEA sulfate (DHEAS) decrease markedly during aging, and have been implicated in age-associated cognitive decline. This has led to the hypothesis that DHEA supplementation during aging may improve memory. In rodents, a cognitive anti-aging effect of DHEA and DHEAS has been observed but it is unclear whether this effect is mediated indirectly through conversion of these steroids to estradiol. Moreover, despite the demonstration of correlations between endogenous DHEA concentrations and cognitive ability in certain human patient populations, such correlations have yet to be convincingly demonstrated during normal human aging. This review highlights important differences between rodents and primates in terms of their circulating DHEA and DHEAS concentrations, and suggests that age-related changes within the human DHEA metabolic pathway may contribute to the relative inefficacy of DHEA replacement therapies in humans. The review also highlights the value of using nonhuman primates as a pragmatic animal model for testing the therapeutic potential of DHEA for age-associate cognitive decline in humans.
PMCID: PMC2829637  PMID: 19711196
Dehydroepiandrosterone; Cognitive decline; Intracrinology; Neurosteroidogenesis
8.  Dehydroepiandrosterone and age-related cognitive decline 
Age (Dordrecht, Netherlands)  2009;32(1):61-67.
In humans the circulating concentrations of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and DHEA sulfate (DHEAS) decrease markedly during aging, and have been implicated in age-associated cognitive decline. This has led to the hypothesis that DHEA supplementation during aging may improve memory. In rodents, a cognitive anti-aging effect of DHEA and DHEAS has been observed but it is unclear whether this effect is mediated indirectly through conversion of these steroids to estradiol. Moreover, despite the demonstration of correlations between endogenous DHEA concentrations and cognitive ability in certain human patient populations, such correlations have yet to be convincingly demonstrated during normal human aging. This review highlights important differences between rodents and primates in terms of their circulating DHEA and DHEAS concentrations, and suggests that age-related changes within the human DHEA metabolic pathway may contribute to the relative inefficacy of DHEA replacement therapies in humans. The review also highlights the value of using nonhuman primates as a pragmatic animal model for testing the therapeutic potential of DHEA for age-associate cognitive decline in humans.
PMCID: PMC2829637  PMID: 19711196
Dehydroepiandrosterone; Cognitive decline; Intracrinology; Neurosteroidogenesis
9.  Dynamics of Regulatory T-Cells during Pregnancy: Effect of HIV Infection and Correlations with Other Immune Parameters 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e28172.
Regulatory T cells (Treg) increase in the context of HIV infection and pregnancy. We studied Treg subpopulations in HIV-infected and uninfected women during pregnancy and their relationship with inflammation, activation and cell-mediated immunity (CMI).
Design and Methods
Blood obtained from 20 HIV-infected and 18 uninfected women during early and late gestation was used to measure Treg and activated T cells (Tact) by flow cytometry; plasma cytokines and inflammatory markers by ELISA and chemoluminescence; and CMI against varicella-zoster virus (VZV) by lymphocyte proliferation.
Results and Conclusions
Compared with uninfected women, HIV-infected participants had higher frequencies of Treg subpopulations in early pregnancy, including CD4+CD25+FoxP3+%, CD8+CD25+FoxP3+%, CD4+TGFβ+% and CD4+IL10+%. In contrast, Treg frequencies were lower during late pregnancy in HIV-infected compared with uninfected women, including CD8+TGFβ+%, CD4+CTLA4+% and CD8+CTLA4+%. VZV-CMI, which was lower in HIV-infected compared with uninfected pregnant women, was inversely correlated with CD4+FoxP3+%, CD8+FoxP3+% and CD8+TGFβ+% in HIV-infected, but not in uninfected pregnant women. β2-microglobulin, neopterin, IL1, IL4, IL8, IL10, IFNγ and TNFα plasma concentrations as well as Tact were higher in HIV-infected compared with uninfected women throughout pregnancy. In HIV-infected, but not in uninfected women, inflammatory, Th1, Th2 and regulatory cytokines increased with higher Treg%, suggesting that inflammation and regulation have a common pathophysiologic origin in the context of HIV infection. In HIV-infected and more commonly in uninfected pregnant women, higher Treg% correlated with lower Tact%. We conclude that Treg have different dynamics during pregnancy in HIV-infected and uninfected women. Higher levels of inflammatory cytokines and lower Treg% during late pregnancy in HIV-infected women may contribute to their increased incidence of maternal-fetal morbidity.
PMCID: PMC3226670  PMID: 22140535
10.  Association of Adrenal Function and Disease Severity in Community-Acquired Pneumonia 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99518.
Rapid and accurate risk stratification in patients with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is an unmet clinical need. Cortisol to dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) ratio was put forward as a prognostic marker in sepsis. We herein validated the prognostic value of the adrenal hormones DHEA, DHEA-Sulfate (DHEAS), cortisol/DHEA-, cortisol/DHEAS- and DHEA/DHEAS – ratios in patients with CAP.
We assessed severity of illness using the pneumonia severity index (PSI) and measured adrenal hormone concentrations in 179 serum samples of prospectively recruited patients hospitalized with CAP. We calculated spearman rank correlation, logistic regression analysis and Kaplan Meier curves to study associations of adrenal hormones and outcomes.
There was a significant correlation between PSI score and total cortisol (r = 0.24, p = 0.001), DHEAS (r = −0.23, p = 0.002), cortisol/DHEA (r = 0.23, p = 0.003), cortisol/DHEAS (r = 0.32, p = <0.0001) and DHEA/DHEAS (r = 0.20, p = 0.009). In age and gender adjusted logistic regression analysis, cortisol (OR: 2.8, 95% CI: 1.48–5.28) and DHEA (OR: 2.62, 95% CI: 1.28–5.34), but not DHEAS and the different ratios were associated with all-cause mortality. The discriminatory accuracy of cortisol and DHEA in ROC analysis (area under the curve) was 0.74 and 0.61. In Kaplan Meier analysis, patients in the highest deciles of cortisol and DHEA (p = 0.005 and p = 0.015), and to a lesser extent of cortisol/DHEAS ratio (p = 0.081) had a higher risk of death.
Cortisol, DHEAS and their ratios correlate with CAP severity, and cortisol and DHEA predict mortality. Adrenal function in severe pneumonia may be an important factor for CAP outcomes.
PMCID: PMC4049821  PMID: 24910975
11.  Cortisol and DHEA-S are associated with startle potentiation during aversive conditioning in humans 
Psychopharmacology  2005;186(3):434-441.
Fear conditioning reliably increases the startle reflex and stress hormones, yet very little is known about the effect of stress hormones on fear-potentiated startle. Cortisol and the sulfate ester of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA-S) are involved in stress and anxiety. Evidence suggests that low cortisol/DHEA-S ratio has a buffering effect on stress and anxiety in preclinical and clinical studies, suggesting that there may be a relationship between fear-potentiated startle and cortisol and DHEA-S activity.
The aim of the study was to examine whether there is a relationship between cortisol/DHEA-S ratio and fear-potentiated startle.
Thirty healthy subjects participated in a differential aversive conditioning experiment during which one of two stimuli (CS+) was paired with a shock, and the other was not (CS-). Conditioned responses were assessed with the startle reflex, defined as startle potentiation during CS+ compared to CS-. DHEA-S and cortisol levels were assayed from blood samples collected in both a baseline and an aversive conditioning session. Subjective state anxiety, arousal, and valence were assessed at various times during testing.
Fear-potentiated startle was larger in individuals with high compared to low cortisol/DHEA-S ratio. Multiple regression analyses revealed that fear-potentiated startle was positively associated with cortisol and negatively associated with DHEA-S. There was no significant correlation between DHEA-S and cortisol levels.
These data suggest that cortisol and DHEA-S are involved in fear conditioning.
PMCID: PMC2702204  PMID: 16052364
Fear conditioning; Fear-potentiated startle; Cortisol; DHEA-S; Stress; HPA
12.  Comprehensive Analysis of Frequency and Phenotype of T Regulatory Cells in HIV Infection: CD39 Expression of FoxP3+ T Regulatory Cells Correlates with Progressive Disease ▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2010;85(3):1287-1297.
There are conflicting data about the frequency and role of regulatory T cells (Tregs) during the course of HIV infection. Peripheral blood of a large cohort of HIV-infected patients (n = 131) at different stages of disease, including 15 long-term nonprogressors and 21 elite controllers, was analyzed to determine the frequency and phenotype of Tregs, defined as CD4+, CD25high, CD127low, FoxP3high cells. A significantly increased relative frequency of Tregs within the CD4+ compartment of HIV+ patients compared to that of healthy controls (P < 0.0001) was observed. Additionally, the relative frequency of Tregs directly correlated with HIV viral load and inversely with CD4+ counts. However, the absolute Treg number was reduced in HIV-infected patients versus healthy controls (P < 0.0001), with the exception of elite controllers (P > 0.05). The loss of absolute Treg numbers coincided with rising markers of immune activation (P < 0.0006). The initiation of antiviral therapy significantly increased absolute Treg numbers (P < 0.0031). We find that the expression of CD39, a newly defined ectonucleotidase with immunomodulatory functions on Tregs, correlated with progressive HIV disease, HIV viral load, and immune activation. Of note, when tested in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of healthy volunteers, the in vitro capacity to suppress T-cell proliferation was limited to CD4+, CD25high, CD39+ T cells. Interestingly, Tregs of elite controllers exhibited not only the highest expression of CCR5, CTLA-4, and ICOS but also the lowest level of CD39. The data presented here reconcile the seemingly contradictory results of previous studies looking at Tregs in HIV and highlight the complexity of Treg-mediated immunoregulation during human viral infections.
PMCID: PMC3020516  PMID: 21047964
13.  Impaired Hepatitis C Virus-Specific T Cell Responses and Recurrent Hepatitis C Virus in HIV Coinfection 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e492.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV)-specific T cell responses are critical for spontaneous resolution of HCV viremia. Here we examined the effect of a lymphotropic virus, HIV-1, on the ability of coinfected patients to maintain spontaneous control of HCV infection.
Methods and Findings
We measured T cell responsiveness by lymphoproliferation and interferon-γ ELISPOT in a large cohort of HCV-infected individuals with and without HIV infection. Among 47 HCV/HIV-1-coinfected individuals, spontaneous control of HCV was associated with more frequent HCV-specific lymphoproliferative (LP) responses (35%) compared to coinfected persons who exhibited chronic HCV viremia (7%, p = 0.016), but less frequent compared to HCV controllers who were not HIV infected (86%, p = 0.003). Preservation of HCV-specific LP responses in coinfected individuals was associated with a higher nadir CD4 count (r2 = 0.45, p < 0.001) and the presence and magnitude of the HCV-specific CD8+ T cell interferon-γ response (p = 0.0014). During long-term follow-up, recurrence of HCV viremia occurred in six of 25 coinfected individuals with prior control of HCV, but in 0 of 16 HIV-1-negative HCV controllers (p = 0.03, log rank test). In these six individuals with recurrent HCV viremia, the magnitude of HCV viremia following recurrence inversely correlated with the CD4 count at time of breakthrough (r = −0.94, p = 0.017).
These results indicate that HIV infection impairs the immune response to HCV—including in persons who have cleared HCV infection—and that HIV-1-infected individuals with spontaneous control of HCV remain at significant risk for a second episode of HCV viremia. These findings highlight the need for repeat viral RNA testing of apparent controllers of HCV infection in the setting of HIV-1 coinfection and provide a possible explanation for the higher rate of HCV persistence observed in this population.
HIV infection impairs the immune response to HCV. Even individuals who have cleared HCV infection remain at significant risk for a second episode of HCV viremia.
Editors' Summary
Because of shared transmission routes (contaminated needles, contaminated blood products, and, to a lesser extent, unprotected sex), a large proportion of HIV-infected individuals (estimates range between 25% and 33%) are also infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). In most but not all individuals infected with HCV, the virus infection is chronic and causes liver disease that can eventually lead to liver failure. Disease progress is slow; it often takes decades until infected individuals develop serious liver disease. In people infected with both HCV and HIV, however, liver disease caused by HCV often appears sooner and progresses faster. As highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and prophylaxis of opportunistic infections increase the life span of persons living with HIV, HCV-related liver disease has become a major cause of hospital admissions and deaths among HIV-infected persons.
Why Was This Study Done?
A sizable minority of people who are infected with HCV manage to control the virus and never get liver disease, and scientists have found that these people somehow mounted a strong immune response against the hepatitis C virus. CD4+ T cells, the very immune cells that are infected and destroyed by HIV, play an important role in this immune response. The goal of the present study was to better understand how infection with HIV compromises the specific immune response to HCV and thereby the control of HCV disease progression.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited four groups of patients, 94 in total, all of whom were infected with HCV. Two groups comprised patients who were infected with HIV as well as HCV, with either high or undetectable levels of HCV (30 patients in each group). The two other groups included patients not infected with HIV, either with high or undetectable levels of HCV (17 patients in each group). The researchers focused on the individuals who, despite coinfection with HIV, were able to control their HCV infection. They found that those individuals managed to maintain relatively high levels of CD4+ T cells that specifically recognize HCV. However, a quarter of these patients (six out of 25) failed to keep HCV levels down for the entire observation period of up to 2.5 years; their blood levels of HCV rose substantially, most likely due to recurrence of the previously suppressed virus (the researchers could not be certain that none of the patients had become infected again after a new exposure to HCV-contaminated blood, but there was no evidence that they had engaged in risky behavior). The rise of HCV levels in the blood of the relapsed patients coincided with a drop in overall CD4+ T cell numbers. Following relapse in these individuals, HCV did not return to undetectable levels during the study. During the same period none of the 16 HIV-uninfected people with controlled HCV infection experienced a recurrence of detectable HCV.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Despite the relatively small numbers of patients, these results suggest that recurrence of HCV after initial control of the virus is more likely in people who are coinfected with HIV, and that HCV control is lost when CD4+ T cell counts fall. This is one more reason to test all HIV-positive patients for HCV coinfection. Coinfected patients, even those who seem to be controlling HCV and would not automatically receive HCV treatment, should be regularly tested for a rise of HCV levels. In addition, maintaining CD4+ T cells at a high level might be particularly important for those patients, which means that doctors might consider starting HAART therapy earlier than is generally recommended for HIV-infected individuals. Additional studies are needed to support these recommendations, however, especially as this study did not follow the patients long enough to determine the consequences of the observed loss of control of HCV.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
AIDS Treatment Data Network factsheet on HIV/HCV coinfection
US CDC factsheet on HIV/HCV coinfection
American Liver Foundation, information on HIV and HCV
MedlinePlus pages on HCV
PMCID: PMC1705826  PMID: 17194190
14.  Analysis of Suppressor and Non-Suppressor FOXP3+ T Cells in HIV-1-Infected Patients 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52580.
Recently, it was shown that peripheral blood FOXP3+CD4+ T cells are composed of three phenotypic and functionally distinct subpopulations. Two of them having in vitro suppressive effects were characterized as resting Treg cells (rTregs) and activated Treg cells (aTregs). A third subset, identified as FOXP3+ non-Tregs, does not display any suppressor activity and produce high levels of Th1 and Th17 cytokines upon stimulation. In the present study we focus on the characteristics of these three subsets of FOXP3+CD4+ T cells in untreated HIV-1-infected patients. We found that the absolute counts of rTregs, aTregs and FOXP3+ non-Tregs were reduced in HIV-1 patients compared with healthy donors. The relative frequency of rTregs and aTregs was similar in HIV-1 patients and healthy donors, while the frequency of FOXP3+ non-Tregs was significantly higher in HIV-1 patients, reaching a maximum in those patients with the lower values of CD4 counts. Contrasting with the observations made in FOXP3- CD4+ T cells, we did not find a negative correlation between the number of rTregs, aTregs or FOXP3+ non-Tregs and virus load. Studies performed with either whole PBMCs or sorted aTregs and FOXP3+ non-Tregs cells showed that these two populations of FOXP3+ T cells were highly permissive to HIV-1 infection. Upon infection, FOXP3+ non-Tregs markedly down-regulates its capacity to produce Th1 and Th17 cytokines, however, they retain the ability to produce substantial amounts of Th2 cytokines. This suggests that FOXP3+ non-Tregs might contribute to the polarization of CD4+ T cells into a Th2 profile, predictive of a poor outcome of HIV-1-infected patients.
PMCID: PMC3527601  PMID: 23285102
15.  Mycobacterium tuberculosis Modulates the Gene Interactions to Activate the HIV Replication and Faster Disease Progression in a Co-Infected Host 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106815.
Understanding of the chronic immune activation, breakdown of immune defense and synergistic effect between HIV and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) may provide essential information regarding key factors involved in the pathogenesis of HIV disease. In this study, we aimed to highlight a few of the immunological events that may influence and accelerate the progression of HIV disease in the presence of co-infecting Mtb. A cross-sectional study was performed on cohorts, including anti-tubercular therapy (ATT) naïve active pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) patients, antiretroviral therapy (ART) naïve HIV-1 infected individuals at different stages of disease, ATT and ART naïve HIV-PTB co-infected individuals and healthy controls. A significantly higher T-regulatory cell (Treg) frequency coupled with the high FoxP3 expression in the CD4 T-cells indicated an immunosuppressive environment in the advance stage of HIV-1 infection. This is further substantiated by high HO-1 expression favoring TB co-infection. Functionally, this change in Treg frequency in HIV-1 infected individuals correlated well with suppression of T-cell proliferation. Mtb infection seems to facilitate the expansion of the Treg pool along with increased expression of FoxP3, specifically the variant-1, as evident from the data in HIV-1 co-infected as well as in patients with only PTB. A significantly lower expression of HO-1 in co-infected individuals compared to patients with only HIV-infection having comparable CD4 count correlated well with increased expression of CCR5 and CxCR4 as well as NF-κB and inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNF-α, which collectively may contribute to enhanced viral replication and increased cell death, hence faster disease progression in co-infected individuals.
PMCID: PMC4157787  PMID: 25198707
16.  LPS-Binding Protein and IL-6 Mark Paradoxical Tuberculosis Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome in HIV Patients 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e81856.
Tuberculosis-associated immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (TB-IRIS) remains a poorly understood complication in HIV-TB co-infected patients initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART). The role of the innate immune system in TB-IRIS is becoming increasingly apparent, however the potential involvement in TB-IRIS of a leaky gut and proteins that interfere with TLR stimulation by binding PAMPs has not been investigated before. Here we aimed to investigate the innate nature of the cytokine response in TB-IRIS and to identify novel potential biomarkers.
From a large prospective cohort of HIV-TB co-infected patients receiving TB treatment, we compared 40 patients who developed TB-IRIS during the first month of ART with 40 patients matched for age, sex and baseline CD4 count who did not. We analyzed plasma levels of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-binding protein (LBP), LPS, sCD14, endotoxin-core antibody, intestinal fatty acid-binding protein (I-FABP) and 18 pro-and anti-inflammatory cytokines before and during ART.
We observed lower baseline levels of IL-6 (p = 0.041), GCSF (p = 0.036) and LBP (p = 0.016) in TB-IRIS patients. At IRIS event, we detected higher levels of LBP, IL-1RA, IL-4, IL-6, IL-7, IL-8, G-CSF (p ≤ 0.032) and lower I-FABP levels (p = 0.013) compared to HIV-TB co-infected controls. Only IL-6 showed an independent effect in multivariate models containing significant cytokines from pre-ART (p = 0.039) and during TB-IRIS (p = 0.034).
We report pre-ART IL-6 and LBP levels as well as IL-6, LBP and I-FABP levels during IRIS-event as potential biomarkers in TB-IRIS. Our results show no evidence of the possible contribution of a leaky gut to TB-IRIS and indicate that IL-6 holds a distinct role in the disturbed innate cytokine profile before and during TB-IRIS. Future clinical studies should investigate the importance and clinical relevance of these markers for the diagnosis and treatment of TB-IRIS.
PMCID: PMC3842977  PMID: 24312369
17.  A Multifaceted Analysis of Immune-Endocrine-Metabolic Alterations in Patients with Pulmonary Tuberculosis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26363.
Our study investigated the circulating levels of factors involved in immune-inflammatory-endocrine-metabolic responses in patients with tuberculosis with the aim of uncovering a relation between certain immune and hormonal patterns, their clinical status and in vitro immune response. The concentration of leptin, adiponectin, IL-6, IL-1β, ghrelin, C-reactive protein (CRP), cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and the in vitro immune response (lymphoproliferation and IFN-γ production) was evaluated in 53 patients with active untreated tuberculosis, 27 household contacts and 25 healthy controls, without significant age- or sex-related differences. Patients had a lower body mass index (BMI), reduced levels of leptin and DHEA, and increased concentrations of CRP, IL-6, cortisol, IL-1β and nearly significant adiponectin values than household contacts and controls. Within tuberculosis patients the BMI and leptin levels were positively correlated and decreased with increasing disease severity, whereas higher concentrations of IL-6, CRP, IL-1β, cortisol, and ghrelin were seen in cases with moderate to severe tuberculosis. Household contacts had lower DHEA and higher IL-6 levels than controls. Group classification by means of discriminant analysis and the k-nearest neighbor method showed that tuberculosis patients were clearly different from the other groups, having higher levels of CRP and lower DHEA concentration and BMI. Furthermore, plasma leptin levels were positively associated with the basal in vitro IFN-γ production and the ConA-driven proliferation of cells from tuberculosis patients. Present alterations in the communication between the neuro-endocrine and immune systems in tuberculosis may contribute to disease worsening.
PMCID: PMC3192801  PMID: 22022605
18.  Starting and resulting testosterone levels after androgen supplementation determine at all ages in vitro fertilization (IVF) pregnancy rates in women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) 
To investigate whether androgen conversion rates after supplementation with dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) differ, and whether differences between patients with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) are predictive of pregnancy chances in association with in vitro fertilization (IVF).
In a prospective cohort study we investigated 213 women with DOR, stratified for age (≤38 or >38 years) and ovarian FMR1 genotypes/sub-genotypes. All women were for at least 6 weeks supplemented with 75 mg of DHEA daily prior to IVF, between initial presentation and start of 1st IVF cycles. Levels of DHEA, DHEA-sulfate (DHEAS), total T (TT) and free T (FT) at baseline (BL) and IVF cycle start (CS) were then compared between conception and non-conception cycles.
Mean age for the study population was 41.5 ± 4.4 years. Forty-seven IVF cycles (22.1 %) resulted in clinical pregnancy. Benefits of DHEA on pregnancy rates were statistically associated with efficiency of androgen conversion from DHEA to T and amplitude of T gain. Younger women converted significantly more efficiently than older females, and selected FMR1 genotypes/sub-genotypes converted better than others. FSH/androgen and AMH/androgen ratios represent promising new predictors of IVF pregnancy chances in women with DOR.
DOR at all ages appears to represent an androgen-deficient state, benefitting from androgen supplementation. Efficacy of androgen supplementation with DHEA, however, varies depending on female age and FMR1 genotype/sub-genotype. Further clarification of FMR1 effects should lead to better individualization of androgen supplementation, whether via DHEA or other androgenic compounds.
PMCID: PMC3553353  PMID: 23212832
Diminished ovarian reserve; Androgens; Androgen deficiency; Androgen supplementation; Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA); Testosterone; FMR1 gene; Premature ovarian aging; Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH); Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH); Pregnancy rates; In vitro fertilization (IVF); Adrenal insufficiency
19.  Reduction of atherosclerosis by administration of dehydroepiandrosterone. A study in the hypercholesterolemic New Zealand white rabbit with aortic intimal injury. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1988;82(2):712-720.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is an endogenous steroid that blocks carcinogenesis, retards aging, and exerts antiproliferative properties. In vitro, it is a potent inhibitor of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, the first committed step of the pentose phosphate pathway. In man, serum levels of DHEA and its sulfate peak in early adulthood and drop markedly with age. Epidemiologic evidence indicates that low levels of DHEA or its sulfate conjugate are linked to an increased risk of developing cancer or of death from cardiovascular disease. Like cancer, atherosclerosis is a proliferative process characterized by both initiation and promotion phases. This similarity provided a framework in which to study the antiatherogenic effects of DHEA. Rabbits were randomly assigned to four groups. Two groups of rabbits received aortic endothelial injury by balloon catheter and were fed a 2% cholesterol diet for 12 wk. DHEA, 0.5%, was incorporated into the diet of one group receiving the 2% cholesterol diet and endothelial injury and also into the diet of one of the control groups. Animals were killed after 12 wk and aortas, hearts, and livers were studied. Plasma samples were analyzed for total cholesterol, VLDL, LDL, HDL, triglycerides, DHEA, and DHEA-sulfate levels. The atherogenic insult resulted in severe atherosclerosis in animals not treated with DHEA. In those receiving DHEA there was an almost 50% reduction in plaque size (P = 0.006), inversely related to the serum level of DHEA attained. Fatty infiltration of the heart and liver were also markedly reduced. These beneficial actions were not attributable to differences in body weight gain, food intake, total plasma cholesterol or distribution of cholesterol among the VLDL, LDL, or HDL fractions. The results show that high levels of plasma DHEA inhibit the development of atherosclerosis and they provide an important experimental link to the epidemiologic studies correlating low DHEA-sulfate plasma levels with an enhanced risk of cardiovascular mortality.
PMCID: PMC303568  PMID: 2969922
20.  Measuring cortisol and DHEA in fingernails: A pilot study 
Abnormalities in both cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) have been reported in psychiatric disorders. Analysis of saliva, urine and blood cortisol and DHEA levels provides an index of hormone levels over a short time period. Unlike such conventional measures, fingernails incorporate endogenous hormones that passively diffuse to the nail matrix from capillaries during keratinization. This study piloted the measurement of cortisol and DHEA levels in fingernails as a potential measure of their accumulated secretion of steroid hormones over a prolonged time period.
Thirty-three university students (18–24 years) provided fingernail samples on two occasions over a school semester. The visits were scheduled so nail cortisol and DHEA levels were collected from periods when students might be under different levels of stress.
During the putatively stressful period, the nail samples showed a significant increase in the cortisol: DHEA ratio (P = 0.0002) due to a significant decrease in the DHEA levels (P = 0.004) and a numerical but not statistically significant increase in the cortisol levels (P = 0.256).
This pilot study showed that nails can be used to measure cortisol and DHEA, a measure which may reflect environmental stress. More work is required to further validate this technique which may prove useful in studies of both healthy individuals and patient groups.
PMCID: PMC2951060  PMID: 20169040
stress; nails; cortisol; DHEA
21.  Human Resistance to Plasmodium falciparum Increases during Puberty and Is Predicted by Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate Levels 
Infection and Immunity  2001;69(1):123-128.
Immunity to Plasmodium falciparum develops slowly in areas of endemicity, and this is often ascribed to poorly immunogenic or highly variant parasite antigens. However, among populations newly exposed to malaria, adults acquire immunity more rapidly than children. We examined the relationship between pubertal development and resistance to P. falciparum. During two transmission seasons in western Kenya, we treated the same cohort of young males to eradicate P. falciparum and then obtained blood smears each week for 4 months. We determined pubertal development by Tanner staging and by levels of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and testosterone in plasma. In multivariate and age-stratified analyses, we examined the effect of pubertal development on resistance to malaria. In both seasons (n = 248 and 144 volunteers, respectively), older males were less susceptible than younger males. Age-related decreases in the frequency and density of parasitemia were greatest during puberty (15- to 20-year-olds). DHEAS and testosterone were significant independent predictors of resistance to P. falciparum parasitemia, even after accounting for the effect of age. Fifteen- to 20-year-old males with high DHEAS levels had a 72% lower mean parasite density (P < 0.01) than individuals with low DHEAS levels. Similarly, 21- to 35-year-old males with high DHEAS levels had a 92% lower mean parasite density (P < 0.001) and 48% lower frequency of parasitemia (P < 0.05) than individuals with low DHEAS levels. These data suggest that the long period needed to attain full immunity could be explained as a consequence of host development rather than as the requirement to recognize variant or poorly immunogenic parasite antigens.
PMCID: PMC97863  PMID: 11119497
22.  Low Circulating Levels of Dehydroepiandrosterone in Histologically Advanced Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2008;47(2):484-492.
The biological basis of variability in histological progression of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is unknown. Dehydroepiandrosterone(DHEA) is the most abundant steroid hormone and has been shown to influence sensitivity to oxidative stress, insulin sensitivity, and expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha and procollagen messenger RNA. Our aim was to determine whether more histologically advanced NAFLD is associated with low circulating levels of DHEA. Serum samples were obtained prospectively at the time of liver biopsy in 439 patients with NAFLD (78 in an initial and 361 in validation cohorts) and in controls with cholestatic liver disease (n = 44). NAFLD was characterized as mild [simple steatosis or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) with fibrosis stage 0–2] or advanced (NASH with fibrosis stage 3–4). Serum levels of sulfated DHEA (DHEA-S) were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Patients with advanced NAFLD had lower plasma levels of DHEA-S than patients with mild NAFLD in both the initial (0.25 ± 0.07 versus 1.1 ± 0.09 µg/mL, P < 0.001) and validation cohorts (0.47 ± 0.06 versus 0.99 ± 0.04 µg/mL, P < 0.001). A “dose effect” of decreasing DHEA-S and incremental fibrosis stage was observed with a mean DHEA-S of 1.03 ± 0.05, 0.96 ± 0.07, 0.83 ± 0.11, 0.66 ± 0.11, and 0.35 ± 0.06 µg/mL for fibrosis stages 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively. All patients in both cohorts in the advanced NAFLD group had low DHEA-S levels, with the majority in the hypoadrenal range. The association between DHEA-S and severity of NAFLD persisted after adjusting for age. A relationship between disease/fibrosis severity and DHEA-S levels was not seen in patients with cholestatic liver diseases.
More advanced NAFLD, as indicated by the presence of NASH with advanced fibrosis stage, is strongly associated with low circulating DHEA-S. These data provide novel evidence for relative DHEA-S deficiency in patients with histologically advanced NASH.
PMCID: PMC2906146  PMID: 18220286
23.  CD39/Adenosine Pathway Is Involved in AIDS Progression 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(7):e1002110.
HIV-1 infection is characterized by a chronic activation of the immune system and suppressed function of T lymphocytes. Regulatory CD4+ CD25high FoxP3+CD127low T cells (Treg) play a key role in both conditions. Here, we show that HIV-1 positive patients have a significant increase of Treg-associated expression of CD39/ENTPD1, an ectoenzyme which in concert with CD73 generates adenosine. We show in vitro that the CD39/adenosine axis is involved in Treg suppression in HIV infection. Treg inhibitory effects are relieved by CD39 down modulation and are reproduced by an adenosine-agonist in accordance with a higher expression of the adenosine A2A receptor on patients' T cells. Notably, the expansion of the Treg CD39+ correlates with the level of immune activation and lower CD4+ counts in HIV-1 infected patients. Finally, in a genetic association study performed in three different cohorts, we identified a CD39 gene polymorphism that was associated with down-modulated CD39 expression and a slower progression to AIDS.
Author Summary
HIV-1 infection is characterized by a chronic activation of the immune system. Regulatory T cells (Treg) represent a population of lymphocytes that controls inappropriate or exaggerated immune activation induced by pathogens, thereby influencing the outcome of various infections. Several studies have shown that Treg are expanded in HIV infected patients. However, the mechanisms of Treg immune-modulator functions are not clearly known. CD39 is an ectonucleotidase which converts the proinflammatory ATP signal into AMP and the immunosuppressive adenosine in concert with CD73. A critical role of CD39 has been described for Treg in general but few studies have analyzed its role in HIV infection. We report here an expansion of Treg expressing CD39 in a cohort of HIV-infected patients. In vitro these cells exerted a strong suppressive effect on the effector CD8 T cells. Treg inhibitory effects were relieved by CD39 down-modulation using an anti-CD39 monoclonal antibody. Treg suppressive effects were reproduced by an adenosine agonist in accordance with a higher expression of the adenosine A2A receptor on patients' T cells. From a clinical stand point, we show also a correlation between Treg CD39+ expansion and both immune activation and CD4+ T cell depletion in patients. Finally, by genetic analysis of three different cohorts of patients, we found that a CD39 gene polymorphism associated with a lower CD39 expression correlated with a slower progression to AIDS. Thus, our results contribute to elucidate the mechanisms by which Treg suppression occurs during HIV infection.
PMCID: PMC3131268  PMID: 21750674
24.  Methodological Considerations in Use of the Cortisol/DHEA(S) Ratio in Adolescent Populations 
Psychoneuroendocrinology  2013;38(11):10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.06.024.
The cortisol/DHEA(S) ratio has demonstrated utility in studies of HPA activity and psychopathology. However, use of the cortisol/DHEA(S) ratio in adolescent populations requires additional consideration of differential changes in DHEA(S) and cortisol during the course of puberty. This study examines the relationship between pubertal status and individual cortisol and DHEAS levels as well as with the cortisol/DHEAS ratio.
Morning salivary cortisol and urinary DHEAS levels were obtained for 267 young adolescents at three time points, each approximately one year apart. Growth curve modeling and repeated measures ANOVA were used to assess the effect of adrenal development on individual hormone levels and on the total ratio.
Pubic hair development was a significant predictor of change over time in DHEAS but not cortisol. Development was also a significant predictor of the cortisol/DHEAS ratio when raw cortisol and DHEAS values were used.
Our findings indicate that, when DHEAS levels were adjusted to control for pubertal status, the ratio demonstrated stability over time. This finding is in line with the hypothesis that the ratio may tap stable individual differences in HPA functioning.
PMCID: PMC3812358  PMID: 23867118
Cortisol; DHEA; DHEAS; ratio; HPA axis; adolescent; puberty; adrenarche
25.  HIV-specific regulatory T cells are associated with higher CD4 cell counts in primary infection 
AIDS (London, England)  2008;22(18):2451-2460.
Expansion of Regulatory T (Treg) cells has been described in chronically HIV-infected subjects. We investigated whether HIV-suppressive Treg could be detected during primary HIV infection (PHI).
Seventeen patients diagnosed early after PHI (median: 13 days; 1–55) were studied. Median CD4 cell count was 480 cells/μl (33–1306) and plasma HIV RNA levels ranged between 3.3 to 5.7 log10 cp/mL. Suppressive capacity of blood purified CD4+CD25+ was evaluated in a co-culture assay. Fox-p3, IL-2 and IL-10 were quantified by RT-PCR and intra-cellular staining of ex vivo and activated CD4+CD25high T cells.
The frequency of CD4+CD127lowCD25high T cells among CD4 T cells was lower in PHI compared to chronic patients (n=19). They exhibited a phenotype of memory T cells and expressed constitutively FoxP3. Similarly to chronic patients, Treg from PHI patients inhibited the proliferation of PPD and HIV p24 activated CD4+CD25− T cells. CD4+CD25high T cells from PHI patients responded specifically to p24 stimulation by expressing IL-10. In untreated PHI patients, the frequency, as well as HIV-specific activity of Treg decreased during a 24-month follow up. A positive correlation between percentages of Treg and both CD4 cell counts and the magnitude of p24-specific suppressive activity at diagnosis of PHI was found.
Our data showed that HIV drives Treg since PHI and that these cells persist throughout the course of the infection. A correlation between the frequency of Treg and CD4 T cell counts suggest that these cells may impact on the immune activation set point at PHI diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC3195674  PMID: 19005268
PHI; Treg; IL-10; HIV-specific CD4 T cells; immune activation; CD4 Lymphocyte Count; methods; Cell Proliferation; Female; Flow Cytometry; HIV Infections; diagnosis; immunology; virology; HIV-1; immunology; Humans; Interleukin-10; immunology; Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit; immunology; Male; Phenotype; Prospective Studies; RNA, Viral; immunology; metabolism; Suppressor Factors, Immunologic; immunology; metabolism; T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory; immunology; virology; Viral Load

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