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1.  Computerized Cognitive Training in Cognitively Healthy Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Effect Modifiers 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(11):e1001756.
Michael Valenzuela and colleagues systematically review and meta-analyze the evidence that computerized cognitive training improves cognitive skills in older adults with normal cognition.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
New effective interventions to attenuate age-related cognitive decline are a global priority. Computerized cognitive training (CCT) is believed to be safe and can be inexpensive, but neither its efficacy in enhancing cognitive performance in healthy older adults nor the impact of design factors on such efficacy has been systematically analyzed. Our aim therefore was to quantitatively assess whether CCT programs can enhance cognition in healthy older adults, discriminate responsive from nonresponsive cognitive domains, and identify the most salient design factors.
Methods and Findings
We systematically searched Medline, Embase, and PsycINFO for relevant studies from the databases' inception to 9 July 2014. Eligible studies were randomized controlled trials investigating the effects of ≥4 h of CCT on performance in neuropsychological tests in older adults without dementia or other cognitive impairment. Fifty-two studies encompassing 4,885 participants were eligible. Intervention designs varied considerably, but after removal of one outlier, heterogeneity across studies was small (I2 = 29.92%). There was no systematic evidence of publication bias. The overall effect size (Hedges' g, random effects model) for CCT versus control was small and statistically significant, g = 0.22 (95% CI 0.15 to 0.29). Small to moderate effect sizes were found for nonverbal memory, g = 0.24 (95% CI 0.09 to 0.38); verbal memory, g = 0.08 (95% CI 0.01 to 0.15); working memory (WM), g = 0.22 (95% CI 0.09 to 0.35); processing speed, g = 0.31 (95% CI 0.11 to 0.50); and visuospatial skills, g = 0.30 (95% CI 0.07 to 0.54). No significant effects were found for executive functions and attention. Moderator analyses revealed that home-based administration was ineffective compared to group-based training, and that more than three training sessions per week was ineffective versus three or fewer. There was no evidence for the effectiveness of WM training, and only weak evidence for sessions less than 30 min. These results are limited to healthy older adults, and do not address the durability of training effects.
CCT is modestly effective at improving cognitive performance in healthy older adults, but efficacy varies across cognitive domains and is largely determined by design choices. Unsupervised at-home training and training more than three times per week are specifically ineffective. Further research is required to enhance efficacy of the intervention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
As we get older, we notice many bodily changes. Our hair goes grey, we develop new aches and pains, and getting out of bed in the morning takes longer than it did when we were young. Our brain may also show signs of aging. It may take us longer to learn new information, we may lose our keys more frequently, and we may forget people's names. Cognitive decline—developing worsened thinking, language, memory, understanding, and judgment—can be a normal part of aging, but it can also be an early sign of dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by a severe, irreversible decline in cognitive functions. We know that age-related physical decline can be attenuated by keeping physically active; similarly, engaging in activities that stimulate the brain throughout life is thought to enhance cognition in later life and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline and dementia. Thus, having an active social life and doing challenging activities that stimulate both the brain and the body may help to stave off cognitive decline.
Why Was This Study Done?
“Brain training” may be another way of keeping mentally fit. The sale of computerized cognitive training (CCT) packages, which provide standardized, cognitively challenging tasks designed to “exercise” various cognitive functions, is a lucrative and expanding business. But does CCT work? Given the rising global incidence of dementia, effective interventions that attenuate age-related cognitive decline are urgently needed. However, the impact of CCT on cognitive performance in older adults is unclear, and little is known about what makes a good CCT package. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, the researchers assess whether CCT programs improve cognitive test performance in cognitively healthy older adults and identify the aspects of cognition (cognitive domains) that are responsive to CCT, and the CCT design features that are most important in improving cognitive performance. A systematic review uses pre-defined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; meta-analysis uses statistical methods to combine the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 51 trials that investigated the effects of more than four hours of CCT on nearly 5,000 cognitively healthy older adults by measuring several cognitive functions before and after CCT. Meta-analysis of these studies indicated that the overall effect size for CCT (compared to control individuals who did not participate in CCT) was small but statistically significant. An effect size quantifies the difference between two groups; a statistically significant result is a result that is unlikely to have occurred by chance. So, the meta-analysis suggests that CCT slightly increased overall cognitive function. Notably, CCT also had small to moderate significant effects on individual cognitive functions. For example, some CCT slightly improved nonverbal memory (the ability to remember visual images) and working memory (the ability to remember recent events; short-term memory). However, CCT had no significant effect on executive functions (cognitive processes involved in planning and judgment) or attention (selective concentration on one aspect of the environment). The design of CCT used in the different studies varied considerably, and “moderator” analyses revealed that home-based CCT was not effective, whereas center-based CCT was effective, and that training sessions undertaken more than three times a week were not effective. There was also some weak evidence suggesting that CCT sessions lasting less than 30 minutes may be ineffective. Finally, there was no evidence for the effectiveness of working memory training by itself (for example, programs that ask individuals to recall series of letters).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that CCT produces small improvements in cognitive performance in cognitively healthy older adults but that the efficacy of CCT varies across cognitive domains and is largely determined by design aspects of CCT. The most important result was that “do-it-yourself” CCT at home did not produce improvements. Rather, the small improvements seen were in individuals supervised by a trainer in a center and undergoing sessions 1–3 times a week. Because only cognitively healthy older adults were enrolled in the studies considered in this systematic review and meta-analysis, these findings do not necessarily apply to cognitively impaired individuals. Moreover, because all the included studies measured cognitive function immediately after CCT, these findings provide no information about the durability of the effects of CCT or about how the effects of CCT on cognitive function translate into real-life outcomes for individuals such as independence and the long-term risk of dementia. The researchers call, therefore, for additional research into CCT, an intervention that might help to attenuate age-related cognitive decline and improve the quality of life for older individuals.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Druin Burch
The US National Institute on Aging provides information for patients and carers about age-related forgetfulness, about memory and cognitive health, and about dementia (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides information about dementia and about memory loss
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about memory, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC4236015  PMID: 25405755
2.  Neural Dysregulation During a Working Memory Task in Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Seropositive and Hepatitis C Coinfected Individuals 
Journal of neurovirology  2014;20(4):398-411.
Cognitive and functional neural correlates of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) are only partially understood at present. Variability in neural response, which has been noted in the literature, may relate to clinical factors associated with HIV, including time since HIV diagnosis, (CD4) count and nadir, HIV viral load, and comorbid infectious processes, especially hepatitis C. The present investigation evaluated working memory-related functional neural activation in 26 HIV+ participants, 28 demographically matched HIV-seronegative individuals, and 8 HIV+ individuals with hepatitis C coinfection. Analyses examined impact of HIV infection duration, CD4 count and nadir, HIV viral load, and hepatitis C serostatus. Results showed that HIV- participants had fastest reaction times, and during the working memory task HIV+ participants with hepatitis C coinfection showed strongest bias toward commission errors; however, signal detection (i.e., overall task performance) was equivalent across groups. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) results showed HIV-related greater activation to an easier vigilance task and HIV-related lower activation to a more difficult working memory task, consistent with reduced cognitive reserve. Hepatitis C coinfection related to diffuse neural dysregulation. Correlational analyses suggested relationships of increasingly severe disease with poorer functioning in brain regions linked to error monitoring and attention regulation.
PMCID: PMC4351737  PMID: 24867610
HIV; hepatitis C; attention; working memory; functional MRI
3.  Immunological Responses and Long-Term Treatment Interruption after Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 (HIV-1) Lipopeptide Immunization of HIV-1-Infected Patients: the LIPTHERA Study▿  
We studied the time course of immunological and virological markers after highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) interruption in chronically human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-infected patients immunized with an HIV lipopeptide preparation. In a prospective open pilot study, 24 HIV-1-infected HAART-treated patients with undetectable plasma viral loads (pVLs) and CD4+ T-cell counts above 350/mm3 were immunized at weeks 0, 3, and 6 with a candidate vaccine consisting of six HIV lipopeptides. At week 24, patients with pVLs of <1.7 log10 copies/ml were invited to stop taking HAART. Antiretroviral therapy was resumed if the pVL rose above 4.47 log10 copies/ml and/or if the CD4+ cell count fell below 250/mm3. Immunological and virologic parameters were studied before and after HAART interruption. The median baseline and nadir CD4+ cell counts were 482 (interquartile range [IQR], 195 to 826) and 313 (IQR, 1 to 481)/mm3, respectively. New specific CD8+ cell responses to HIV-1 epitopes were detected after immunization in 13 (57%) of 23 assessable patients. Twenty-one patients were evaluated 96 weeks after HAART interruption. The median time to pVL rebound was 4 weeks (IQR, 2 to 6), and the median peak pVL was 4.26 (IQR, 3 to 5) log10 copies/ml. Thirteen of these 21 patients resumed HAART a median of 60 weeks after immunization (IQR, 9.2 to 68.4 weeks), when the median pVL was 4.8 (IQR, 2.9 to 5.7) log10 copies/ml and the median CD4+ cell count was 551 (IQR, 156 to 778)/mm3. Eight patients were still off therapy at 96 weeks, with a median pVL of 4 (IQR, 1.7 to 4.6) log10 copies/ml and a median CD4+ cell count of 412 (IQR, 299 to 832)/mm3. No clinical disease progression had occurred. Despite the lack of a control arm, these findings warrant a randomized study of therapeutic vaccination with HIV lipopeptides followed by long-term HAART interruption in AIDS-free chronically infected patients.
PMCID: PMC2268255  PMID: 18184824
4.  X4 viruses are frequently archived in patients with long-term HIV infection but do not seem to influence the “inflamm-aging” process 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:220.
Co-receptor tropism (CRT) in patients with a long history of HIV-1 infection and antiretroviral treatment has been rarely investigated to date. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of X4 and R5 strains in patients with a >15-year follow-up and to investigate the demographical, viral, immunological, clinical and therapeutic determinants of CRT in this population. The possible influence of CRT on the inflammation state related to chronic HIV infection was also examined.
A total of 118 HIV-1 infected patients with an initial HIV-1-positive test before 1997, and still on follow-up, were enrolled and consecutively submitted to blood sampling. Of these, 111 were on antiretroviral therapy and 89/111 (80.2%) had a plasma viral load (pVL) <25 copies/ml at testing. HIV-1 DNA was extracted and amplified from PBMCs for env gp120 sequencing. CRT was assigned by using geno2pheno and isolates were classified as X4 (FPR ≤20%) or R5 (FPR >20%). Level of serological inflammation biomarkers including IL-6, hsPCR, and D-dimers were measured.
An X4 virus was evidenced in HIV-1 proviral DNA of 50 patients (42%) while the remaining 68 patients were classified as R5. The median follow-up was 19 years (range 15–25). No association was observed between CRT and sex, age, nationality, subtype, HIV risk factor, HBV/HCV co-infection, baseline CD4+ cell count and pVL, overall duration of antiretroviral therapy, past exposure to mono-or dual therapies, and duration of NNRTI or PI-based therapy. The presence of an X4 strain was associated with CD4 nadir (p = 0.005), CD4 absolute count over time (p < 0.001), and cumulative positive (copy/years) viremia (p <0.001) during the whole patient history. No differences were found between R5 and X4 patients regarding inflammation marker levels including Il-6, hsPCR and D-dimers.
An archived X4 virus was demonstrated in 42% of patients with a >15-year-history of HIV infection. This presence was clearly associated with a greater exposure to positive viremia and a poorer CD4 trend over time compared to R5, independent of type and duration of antiretroviral treatment. CRT does not seem to influence the inflammation rate of patients aging with HIV.
PMCID: PMC3661370  PMID: 23678991
HIV proviral DNA; Co-receptor tropism; CXCR4; CCR5; Geno2pheno; Aging; Inflammation markers
5.  Magnitude and Complexity of Rectal Mucosa HIV-1-Specific CD8+ T-Cell Responses during Chronic Infection Reflect Clinical Status 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(10):e3577.
The intestinal mucosa displays robust virus replication and pronounced CD4+ T-cell loss during acute human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection. The ability of HIV-specific CD8+ T-cells to modulate disease course has prompted intensive study, yet the significance of virus-specific CD8+ T-cells in mucosal sites remains unclear.
Methods and Findings
We evaluated five distinct effector functions of HIVgag-specific CD8+ T-cells in rectal mucosa and blood, individually and in combination, in relationship to clinical status and antiretroviral therapy (ART). In subjects not on ART, the percentage of rectal Gag-specific CD8+ T-cells capable of 3, 4 or 5 simultaneous effector functions was significantly related to blood CD4 count and inversely related to plasma viral load (PVL) (p<0.05). Polyfunctional rectal CD8+ T-cells expressed higher levels of MIP-1β and CD107a on a per cell basis than mono- or bifunctional cells. The production of TNFα, IFN-γ, and CD107a by Gag-specific rectal CD8+ T-cells each correlated inversely (p<0.05) with PVL, and MIP-1β expression revealed a similar trend. CD107a and IFN-γ production were positively related to blood CD4 count (p<0.05), with MIP-1β showing a similar trend. IL-2 production by rectal CD8+ T-cells was highly variable and generally low, and showed no relationship to viral load or blood CD4 count.
The polyfunctionality of rectal Gag-specific CD8+ T-cells appears to be related to blood CD4 count and inversely related to PVL. The extent to which these associations reflect causality remains to be determined; nevertheless, our data suggest a potentially important role for mucosal T-cells in limiting virus replication during chronic infection.
PMCID: PMC2570490  PMID: 18974782
6.  Regional areas and widths of the midsagittal corpus callosum among HIV-infected patients on stable antiretroviral therapies 
Journal of neurovirology  2011;17(4):368-379.
Recent reports suggest that a growing number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected persons show signs of persistent cognitive impairment even in the context of combination antiretroviral therapies (cART). The basis for this finding remains poorly understood as there are only a limited number of studies examining the relationship between CNS injury, measures of disease severity, and cognitive function in the setting of stable disease. This study examined the effects of HIV infection on cerebral white matter using quantitative morphometry of the midsagittal corpus callosum (CC) in 216 chronically infected participants from the multisite HIV Neuroimaging Consortium study currently receiving cART and 139 controls. All participants underwent MRI assessment, and HIV-infected subjects also underwent measures of cognitive function and disease severity. The midsagittal slice of the CC was quantified using two semi-automated procedures. Group comparisons were accomplished using ANOVA, and the relationship between CC morphometry and clinical covariates (current CD4, nadir CD4, plasma and CSF HIV RNA, duration of HIV infection, age, and ADC stage) was assessed using linear regression models. HIV-infected patients showed significant reductions in both the area and linear widths for several regions of the CC. Significant relationships were found with ADC stage and nadir CD4 cell count, but no other clinical variables. Despite effective treatment, significant and possibly irreversible structural loss of the white matter persists in the setting of chronic HIV disease. A history of advanced immune suppression is a strong predictor of this complication and suggests that antiretroviral intervention at earlier stages of infection may be warranted.
PMCID: PMC4309645  PMID: 21556960
HIV; Corpus callosum; Nadir CD4; White matter; CART
7.  Development of Methods for Coordinate Measurement of Total Cell-Associated and Integrated Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 (HIV-1) DNA Forms in Routine Clinical Samples: Levels Are Not Associated with Clinical Parameters, but Low Levels of Integrated HIV-1 DNA May Be Prognostic for Continued Successful Therapy▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2007;45(4):1288-1297.
We have adapted our established Alu PCR assay for proviral DNA and PCR for total cellular DNA to a real-time PCR format and applied these to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive specimens collected for routine determination of the plasma viral load (pVL). In a cohort of five patients, measurements of integrated viral load (iVL) and cell-associated viral load (cVL) in CD4+ cells isolated by a single positive selection step were not indicative of HIV DNA levels in the circulation, and further analysis was performed on peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). In a cohort of 46 samples total cVL was quantitated in most samples, but iVL could be quantitated in only 47.8%, since in 26% iVL was undetectable and in 21.7% the results were invalid due to high levels of unintegrated HIV DNA. There was no correlation of cVL or iVL with pVL, CD4 count, or duration of successful antiretroviral treatment. Out of 26 patients with undetectable pVL, 4 patients failed therapy within the subsequent 12 months and had higher than average iVL, but this was not the case for cVL. Among nine patients with long-term undetectable pVL, no consistent decline in cVL or iVL was seen with time, and changes in cVL and iVL within a patient could be concordant or discordant. These results show that cVL and iVL can be coordinately measured in PBMC from clinical samples but do not correlate with pVL, CD4 counts, or length of suppressive antiretroviral therapy. Interestingly, a high iVL (but not a high cVL) in patients with undetectable pVL was associated with subsequent treatment failure.
PMCID: PMC1865852  PMID: 17314225
8.  Plasma HIV Viral Rebound following Protocol-Indicated Cessation of ART Commenced in Primary and Chronic HIV Infection 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43754.
The magnitude of HIV viral rebound following ART cessation has consequences for clinical outcome and onward transmission. We compared plasma viral load (pVL) rebound after stopping ART initiated in primary (PHI) and chronic HIV infection (CHI).
Two populations with protocol-indicated ART cessation from SPARTAC (PHI, n = 182) and SMART (CHI, n = 1450) trials.
Time for pVL to reach pre-ART levels after stopping ART was assessed in PHI using survival analysis. Differences in pVL between PHI and CHI populations 4 weeks after stopping ART were examined using linear and logistic regression. Differences in pVL slopes up to 48 weeks were examined using linear mixed models and viral burden was estimated through a time-averaged area-under-pVL curve. CHI participants were categorised by nadir CD4 at ART stop.
Of 171 PHI participants, 71 (41.5%) rebounded to pre-ART pVL levels, at a median of 50 (95% CI 48–51) weeks after stopping ART. Four weeks after stopping treatment, although the proportion with pVL≥400 copies/ml was similar (78% PHI versus 79% CHI), levels were 0.45 (95% CI 0.26–0.64) log10 copies/ml lower for PHI versus CHI, and remained lower up to 48 weeks. Lower CD4 nadir in CHI was associated with higher pVL after ART stop. Rebound for CHI participants with CD4 nadir >500 cells/mm3 was comparable to that experienced by PHI participants.
Stopping ART initiated in PHI and CHI was associated with viral rebound to levels conferring increased transmission risk, although the level of rebound was significantly lower and sustained in PHI compared to CHI.
PMCID: PMC3432055  PMID: 22952756
9.  Transmitted Drug Resistance in the CFAR Network of Integrated Clinical Systems Cohort: Prevalence and Effects on Pre-Therapy CD4 and Viral Load 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21189.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) genomes often carry one or more mutations associated with drug resistance upon transmission into a therapy-naïve individual. We assessed the prevalence and clinical significance of transmitted drug resistance (TDR) in chronically-infected therapy-naïve patients enrolled in a multi-center cohort in North America. Pre-therapy clinical significance was quantified by plasma viral load (pVL) and CD4+ cell count (CD4) at baseline. Naïve bulk sequences of HIV-1 protease and reverse transcriptase (RT) were screened for resistance mutations as defined by the World Health Organization surveillance list. The overall prevalence of TDR was 14.2%. We used a Bayesian network to identify co-transmission of TDR mutations in clusters associated with specific drugs or drug classes. Aggregate effects of mutations by drug class were estimated by fitting linear models of pVL and CD4 on weighted sums over TDR mutations according to the Stanford HIV Database algorithm. Transmitted resistance to both classes of reverse transcriptase inhibitors was significantly associated with lower CD4, but had opposing effects on pVL. In contrast, position-specific analyses of TDR mutations revealed substantial effects on CD4 and pVL at several residue positions that were being masked in the aggregate analyses, and significant interaction effects as well. Residue positions in RT with predominant effects on CD4 or pVL (D67 and M184) were re-evaluated in causal models using an inverse probability-weighting scheme to address the problem of confounding by other mutations and demographic or risk factors. We found that causal effect estimates of mutations M184V/I ( pVL) and D67N/G ( and pVL) were compensated by K103N/S and K219Q/E/N/R. As TDR becomes an increasing dilemma in this modern era of highly-active antiretroviral therapy, these results have immediate significance for the clinical management of HIV-1 infections and our understanding of the ongoing adaptation of HIV-1 to human populations.
PMCID: PMC3118815  PMID: 21701595
10.  Liver fibrosis is associated with cognitive impairment in HIV-positive patients 
Journal of the International AIDS Society  2014;17(4Suppl 3):19722.
The aim of our study was to investigate the potential relationship between liver fibrosis (LF) and cognitive performance in HIV+ patients.
Materials and Methods
We performed a cross-sectional cohort study by consecutively enrolling HIV+ patients during routine outpatient visits at two clinical centres in Italy. Subjects with decompensated liver disease were excluded. All subjects underwent a comprehensive neuropsychological battery exploring memory, attention, psychomotor speed and language; cognitive impairment was defined as at least two abnormal [1.5 SD below the mean for appropriate norms] cognitive domains. LF was explored by calculating FIB4 index; in a subgroup of patients, LF was also assessed by transient elastography. Factors associated with cognitive impairment were investigated by logistic regression models.
A total of 413 patients [77% males, median age 46 (IQR 39–52), 17% with past AIDS-defining events, 19% past IDU, 3% with diabetes, 94% on cART, 90% with HIV RNA <50 copies/mL, 18% co-infected with HCV] were enrolled. Seventeen patients (4%) had FIB4 >3.25 and 14/129 (3%) had liver stiffness >14KPa. Forty-seven patients (11%) were diagnosed with cognitive impairment. At multivariate analyses patients with FIB4 >1.45 showed a higher risk of cognitive impairment in comparison with those with lower values (OR 2.19, 95% CI 1.02–4.72; p=0.044) after adjusting for education (OR 0.79, 95% CI 0.71–0.88; p<0.001), past IDU (OR 1.69, 95% CI 0.67–4.23; p=0.264), diabetes (OR 2.35, 95% CI 0.62–8.86; p=0.207), HIV RNA <50 copies/mL (OR 0.47, 95% CI 0.19–1.14; p=0.095) and HCV co-infection (OR 0.88, 95% CI 0.33–2.39; p=0.807). Analyzing any single cognitive domain, a higher risk of abnormal psychomotor speed was associated with fibroscan score >14KPa in comparison with fibroscan score <7KPa (OR 285.07; 95% CI 2.42–33574.06; p=0.020) after adjusting for education (OR 0.54, 95% CI 0.31–0.92; p=0.024), age (for 10 years increase) (OR 2.03, 95% CI 0.55–7.53; p=0.288), past IDU (OR 4.43, 95% CI 0.35–7.57; p=0.526), HIV RNA <50 copies/mL (OR 0.01, 95% CI 0.00–0.18; p=0.003), HIV history (for 1 year increase) (OR 0.96, 95% CI 0.83–1.12; p=0.641), CD4 cells count at nadir (OR 1.10, 95% CI 0.56–2.16; p=0.779), and HCV co-infection (OR 0.06; 95% CI 0.00–1.93; p=0.113).
In HIV-infected patients higher LF, estimated through non-invasive methods, is associated to a higher risk of cognitive impairment.
PMCID: PMC4225249  PMID: 25397468
11.  Impairment of cognitive functioning during Sunitinib or Sorafenib treatment in cancer patients: a cross sectional study 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:219.
Impairment of cognitive functioning has been reported in several studies in patients treated with chemotherapy. So far, no studies have been published on the effects of the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR) inhibitors on cognitive functioning. We investigated the objective and subjective cognitive function of patients during treatment with VEGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (VEGFR TKI).
Three groups of participants, matched on age, sex and education, were enrolled; 1. metastatic renal cell cancer (mRCC) or GIST patients treated with sunitinib or sorafenib (VEGFR TKI patients n = 30); 2. patients with mRCC not receiving systemic treatment (patient controls n = 20); 3. healthy controls (n = 30). Sixteen neuropsychological tests examining the main cognitive domains (intelligence, memory, attention and concentration, executive functions and abstract reasoning) were administered by a neuropsychologist. Four questionnaires were used to assess subjective cognitive complaints, mood, fatigue and psychological wellbeing.
No significant differences in mean age, sex distribution, education level or IQ were found between the three groups. Both patient groups performed significantly worse on the cognitive domains Learning & Memory and Executive Functions (Response Generation and Problem Solving) compared to healthy controls. However only the VEGFR TKI patients showed impairments on the Executive subdomain Response Generation. Effect sizes of cognitive dysfunction in patients using VEGFR TKI were larger on the domains Learning & Memory and Executive Functions, compared to patient controls. Both patients groups performed on the domain Attention & Concentration the same as the healthy controls. Longer duration of treatment on VEGFR TKI was associated with a worse score on Working Memory tasks.
Our data suggest that treatment with VEGFR TKI has a negative impact on cognitive functioning, specifically on Learning & Memory, and Executive Functioning. We propose that patients who are treated with VEGFR TKI are monitored and informed for possible signs or symptoms associated with cognitive impairment.
Trial registration Identifier: NCT01246843.
PMCID: PMC3987809  PMID: 24661373
Cognitive function; Sunitinib; Sorafenib; VEGFR TKI; Memory and Learning; Executive functioning
12.  Pharmacy Refill Adherence Compared with CD4 Count Changes for Monitoring HIV-Infected Adults on Antiretroviral Therapy 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e109.
World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for monitoring HIV-infected individuals taking combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) in resource-limited settings recommend using CD4+ T cell (CD4) count changes to monitor treatment effectiveness. In practice, however, falling CD4 counts are a consequence, rather than a cause, of virologic failure. Adherence lapses precede virologic failure and, unlike CD4 counts, data on adherence are immediately available to all clinics dispensing cART. However, the accuracy of adherence assessments for predicting future or detecting current virologic failure has not been determined. The goal of this study therefore was to determine the accuracy of adherence assessments for predicting and detecting virologic failure and to compare the accuracy of adherence-based monitoring approaches with approaches monitoring CD4 count changes.
Methodology and Findings
We conducted an observational cohort study among 1,982 of 4,984 (40%) HIV-infected adults initiating non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor-based cART in the Aid for AIDS Disease Management Program, which serves nine countries in southern Africa. Pharmacy refill adherence was calculated as the number of months of cART claims submitted divided by the number of complete months between cART initiation and the last refill prior to the endpoint of interest, expressed as a percentage. The main outcome measure was virologic failure defined as a viral load > 1,000 copies/ml (1) at an initial assessment either 6 or 12 mo after cART initiation and (2) after a previous undetectable (i.e., < 400 copies/ml) viral load (breakthrough viremia). Adherence levels outperformed CD4 count changes when used to detect current virologic failure in the first year after cART initiation (area under the receiver operating characteristic [ROC] curves [AUC] were 0.79 and 0.68 [difference = 0.11; 95% CI 0.06 to 0.16; χ2 = 20.1] respectively at 6 mo, and 0.85 and 0.75 [difference = 0.10; 95% CI 0.05 to 0.14; χ2 = 20.2] respectively at 12 mo; p < 0.001 for both comparisons). When used to detect current breakthrough viremia, adherence and CD4 counts were equally accurate (AUCs of 0.68 versus 0.67, respectively [difference = 0.01; 95% CI −0.06 to 0.07]; χ2 = 0.1, p > 0.5). In addition, adherence levels assessed 3 mo prior to viral load assessments were as accurate for virologic failure occurring approximately 3 mo later as were CD4 count changes calculated from cART initiation to the actual time of the viral load assessments, indicating the potential utility of adherence assessments for predicting future, rather than simply detecting current, virologic failure. Moreover, combinations of CD4 count and adherence data appeared useful in identifying patients at very low risk of virologic failure.
Pharmacy refill adherence assessments were as accurate as CD4 counts for detecting current virologic failure in this cohort of patients on cART and have the potential to predict virologic failure before it occurs. Approaches to cART scale-up in resource-limited settings should include an adherence-based monitoring approach.
Analyzing pharmacy and laboratory records from 1,982 patients beginning HIV therapy in southern Africa, Gregory Bisson and colleagues find medication adherence superior to CD4 count changes in identifying treatment failure.
Editors' Summary
Globally, more than 30 million people are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Combinations of antiretroviral drugs that hold HIV in check (viral suppression) have been available since 1996. Unfortunately, most of the people affected by HIV/AIDS live in developing countries and cannot afford these expensive drugs. As a result, life expectancy has plummeted and economic growth has reversed in these poor countries since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic. Faced with this humanitarian crisis, the lack of access to HIV treatment was declared a global health emergency in 2003. Today, through the concerted efforts of governments, international organizations, and funding bodies, about a quarter of the HIV-positive people in developing and transitional countries who are in immediate need of life-saving, combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) receive the drugs they need.
Why Was This Study Done?
To maximize the benefits of cART, health-care workers in developing countries need simple, affordable ways to monitor viral suppression in their patients—a poor virologic response to cART can lead to the selection of drug-resistant HIV, rapid disease progression, and death. In developed countries, virologic response is monitored by measuring the number of viral particles in patients' blood (viral load) but this technically demanding assay is unavailable in most developing countries. Instead, the World Health Organization recommends that CD4+ T cell (CD4) counts be used to monitor patient responses to cART in resource-limited settings. HIV results in loss of CD4 cells (a type of immune system cell), so a drop in a patient's CD4 count often indicates virologic failure (failure of treatment to suppress the virus). However, falling CD4 counts are often a result of virologic failure and therefore monitoring CD4 counts for drops is unlikely to prevent virologic failure from occurring. Rather, falling CD4 counts are often used only to guide a change to new medicines, which may be even more expensive or difficult to take. On the other hand “adherence lapses”—the failure to take cART regularly—often precede virologic failure, so detecting them early provides an opportunity for improvement in adherence that could prevent virologic failure. Because clinics that dispense cART routinely collect data that can be used to calculate adherence, in this study the researchers investigate whether assessing adherence might provide an alternative, low-cost way to monitor and predict virologic failure among HIV-infected adults on cART.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The Aid for AIDS Disease Management Program provides cART to medical insurance fund subscribers in nine countries in southern Africa. Data on claims for antiretroviral drugs made through this program, plus CD4 counts assessed at about 6 or 12 months after initiating cART, and viral load measurements taken within 45 days of a CD4 count, were available for nearly 2,000 HIV-positive adults who had been prescribed a combination of HIV drugs including either efavirenz or nevirapine. The researchers defined adherence as the number of months of cART claims submitted divided by the number of complete months between cART initiation and the last pharmacy refill before a viral load assessment was performed. Virologic failure was defined in two ways: as a viral load of more than 1,000 copies per ml of blood 6 or 12 months after cART initiation, or as a rebound of viral load to similar levels after a previously very low reading (breakthrough viremia). The researchers' statistical analysis of these data shows that at 6 and 12 months after initiation of cART, adherence levels indicated virologic failure more accurately than CD4 count changes. For breakthrough viremia, both measurements were equally accurate. Adherence levels during the first 3 months of cART predicted virologic failure at 6 months as accurately as did CD4 count changes since cART initiation. Finally, the combination of adherence levels and CD4 count changes accurately identified patients at very low risk of virologic failure.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that adherence assessments (based in this study on insurance claims for pharmacy refills) can identify the patients on cART who are at high and low risk of virologic failure at least as accurately as CD4 counts. In addition, they suggest that adherence assessments could be used for early identification of patients at high risk of virologic failure, averting the health impact of treatment failure and the cost of changing to second-line drug regimens. Studies need to be done in other settings (in particular, in public clinics where cART is provided without charge) to confirm the generalizability of these findings. These finding do not change that fact that monitoring CD4 counts plays an important role in deciding when to start cART or indicating when cART is no longer protecting the immune system. But, write the researchers, systematic monitoring of adherence to cART should be considered as an alternative to CD4 count monitoring in patients who are receiving cART in resource-limited settings or as a way to direct the use of viral load testing where feasible.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is discussed further in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by David Bangsberg
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including an article about adherence to antiretroviral therapy
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV and AIDS in Africa and on providing AIDS drug treatment for millions
The World Health Organization provides information about universal access to HIV treatment (in several languages) and on its recommendations for antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection in adults and adolescents
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on global efforts to deal with the HIV/AIDS pandemic (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2386831  PMID: 18494555
13.  Longitudinal comparison of HIV-1 plasma viral load and cellular proviral load 
Journal of the International AIDS Society  2014;17(4Suppl 3):19669.
The goal of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in HIV-1 infection is the permanent suppression of plasma viral load (pVL) below the currently existing limit of detection of 50 copies/mL (DAIG HIV-therapy guidelines). Therefore, treatment effectiveness is based on pVL. pVL measurements however do not give any information about the viral reservoir in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Therefore, the proviral DNA of HIV-1 could be a useful marker for the investigation of viral reservoirs and monitoring ART in patients showing undetectable pVL.
Materials and Methods
Seventy-seven treatment-experienced HIV-1 infected patients with pVL <50 copies/mL were randomly selected. pVL and proviral DNA load were measured using the Roche COBAS TaqMan HIV-1 v2.0 assay. Additionally, CD4+ cell count per mL and the total white blood cell (wbc) count per mL were determined for each patient. Follow-up data were collected 24 weeks after the time point of the first measurement. Proviral DNA load per mL, CD4+ cell count per mL as well as wbc count per mL were observed over time and differences were estimated using the Mann–Whitney U test. Additionally, correlations between the clinical parameters were analyzed using the two-sided Pearson correlation analysis.
Out of the 77 patients, 38 show a significant increase in proviral load per mL over time (p=0,001), whereas 39 patients show a significant decrease (p=0,001). No differences became visible in the CD4+ cell count per mL comparing week 0 and week 24 data. Thirty five patients show a significant increase in wbc count per mL over time (p<0,001), while 42 patients show a significant decrease (p<0,001). A significant correlation of increasing proviral load per mL and wbc count per mL for data of the first (p<0.001) and the second measurement (p<0.001) can be detected, while there are no correlations found between proviral load per mL and CD4+ cell count per mL.
Our data show that the presence of viral reservoirs in other cell types and not only CD4+ cells is most probable. HIV-1 proviral DNA seems to be an interesting marker in patients with undetectable pVL and allows the assessment of replication under ART. Nevertheless, further longitudinal studies are needed to assess the usefulness and the clinical significance of this marker.
PMCID: PMC4225422  PMID: 25397419
14.  Cognitive Performance in Older Adults with Stable Heart Failure: Longitudinal Evidence for Stability and Improvement 
Cognitive impairment is prevalent in heart failure (HF), though substantial variability in the pattern of cognitive impairment is found across studies. To clarify the nature of cognitive impairment in HF, we examined longitudinal trajectories across multiple domains of cognition in HF patients using latent growth class modeling. 115 HF patients completed a neuropsychological battery at baseline, 3-months and 12-months. Participants also completed the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II). Latent class growth analyses revealed a three-class model for attention/executive function, four-class model for memory, and a three-class model for language. The slope for attention/executive function and language remained stable, while improvements were noted in memory performance. Education and BDI-II significantly predicted the intercept for attention/executive function and language abilities. The BDI-II also predicted baseline memory. The current findings suggest that multiple performance-based classes of neuropsychological test performance exist within cognitive domains, though case-controlled prospective studies with extended follow-ups are needed to fully elucidate changes and predictors of cognitive function in HF.
PMCID: PMC3858403  PMID: 23906182
Heart failure; trajectories; cognitive function; longitudinal; cognitive profile
15.  Impact of smoking on cognitive decline in early old age: the Whitehall II cohort study 
Archives of General Psychiatry  2012;69(6):627-635.
Smoking is a possible risk factor for dementia although its impact may have been underestimated in elderly populations due to the shorter lifespan of smokers.
To examine the association between smoking history and cognitive decline in the transition from midlife to old age.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Data are from 5099 men and 2137 women in the Whitehall II study, mean age 56 years (range=44–69 years) at the first cognitive assessment (1997–1999), repeated over 2002–2004 and 2007–2009.
Main Outcome Measures
The cognitive test battery was composed of tests of memory, vocabulary, executive function (composed of one reasoning and two fluency tests), and a global cognitive score summarising performance across all five tests. Smoking status was assessed over the entire study period. Linear mixed models were used to assess the association between smoking history and 10-year cognitive decline, expressed as z-scores.
In men, 10-year cognitive decline in all tests except vocabulary among never smokers ranged from a quarter to a third of the baseline standard deviation. Faster cognitive decline was observed among current smokers compared to never smokers in men [mean difference in 10-year decline in global cognition=−0.09 (95%CI:−0.15;−0.03) and executive function=−0.11 (−0.17;−0.05)]. Recent ex-smokers had greater decline in executive function (−0.08 (−0.14;−0.02)) while the decline in long-term ex-smokers was similar to that among never smokers. In analyses that additionally took drop-out and death into account, these differences were 1.2 to 1.5 times larger. In women, cognitive decline did not vary as a function of smoking status.
Compared to never smokers, middle-aged male smokers experienced faster cognitive decline in global cognition and executive function. In ex-smokers with at least 10-year cessation there were no adverse effects on cognitive decline.
PMCID: PMC3675806  PMID: 22309970
Adult; Aged; Cognition Disorders; etiology; physiopathology; Cohort Studies; Female; Great Britain; Humans; Male; Middle Aged; Neuropsychological Tests; Smoking; adverse effects; Time Factors
16.  Temporal increase in HIV-1 non-R5 tropism frequency among antiretroviral-naive patients from northern Poland 
Journal of the International AIDS Society  2014;17(4Suppl 3):19687.
Sequencing of the third hypervariable loop allows to identify genotype-based HIV tropism. R5-tropic viruses associated with early stages of infection are preferentially transmitted, while non-R5 HIV-1 tropism has been associated with severe immunodeficiency and lower lymphocyte CD4 nadir and may reflect delayed HIV diagnosis. In this study, we investigate the changes in tropism frequency from 2007 to 2013.
Materials and Methods
Study included 194 patients with confirmed HIV infection linked to care in 2007–2013. Baseline plasma samples from treatment naive patients were used for HIV-1 genotypic tropism assessment based on triplicate V3 loop sequencing. Non-R5 tropism prediction thresholds were assigned using a false positive rate (FPR) of 10% and 5.75% FPR and associated with clinical and laboratory data (age, gender, date of HIV diagnosis, route of transmission, CDC clinical category at diagnosis, pretreatment HIV viral load, baseline and nadir lymphocyte CD4 counts). For statistics, chi-square and Mann–Whitney U tests were used, time trends were examined using logistic regression (R statistical platform, v. 3.1.0) for binary variables and linear regression for continuous ones.
Overall non-R5 tropism frequency for the 5.75% FPR was 15.5% and 27.8% for 10% FPR. Frequency of the non-R5 tropism predicted using 5.75% FPR increased significantly from 2007 (0%) to 2013 (25%) [OR: 1.44 (95% CI 1.14–1.86), p=0.003, rough slope +3.89%/year] (Figure 1a). With 10% FPR, the frequency changed from 7% (2007) to 33% (2013) [OR: 1.17 (95% CI 0.99–1.39), p=0.054, rough slope +3.0%/year] (Figure 1b). Baseline lymphocyte CD4 count and nadir, as well as pretreatment HIV-1 viral loads were stable over time of observation (r=0.014, p=0.84; r=0.13, p=0.085; r=0.016, p=0.83 for CD4 baseline, nadir and HIV load, respectively). Frequency of AIDS at HIV diagnosis increased from 21.4% in 2007 to 38.0% in 2013, however trend over time was insignificant [OR: 1.1 (95% CI 0.95–1.31), p=0.19]. Temporal trends for HIV transmission route, gender, non-B variant frequencies also were not significant.
R5 tropism predominates among the treatment naive individuals but increase in the frequency of non-R5 tropic variants may limit clinical efficacy of the coreceptor inhibitors. Increased prevalence of non-R5 HIV-1 may be related to late care entry and higher number of AIDS diagnoses in the recent years.
PMCID: PMC4225429  PMID: 25397437
17.  The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) - A Sensitive Screening Instrument for Detecting Cognitive Impairment in Chronic Hemodialysis Patients 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e106700.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients undergoing hemodialysis (HD) therapy have an increased risk of developing cognitive impairment and dementia, which are known relevant factors in disease prognosis and therapeutic success, but still lack adequate screening in clinical routine. We evaluated the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) for suitability in assessing cognitive performance in HD patients in comparison to the commonly used Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and a detailed neuropsychological test battery, used as gold standard.
43 HD patients and 42 healthy controls with an average age of 58 years, were assessed with the MoCA, the MMSE and a detailed neuropsychological test battery, covering the domains of memory, attention, language, visuospatial and executive functions. Composite scores were created for comparison of cognitive domains and test results were analyzed using Spearman's correlation and linear regression. Cognitive dysfunction was defined using z-score values and predictive values were calculated. Sensitivity and specificity of the MoCA were determined using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis.
HD patients performed worse in all cognitive domains, especially in memory recall and executive functions. The MoCA correlated well with the detailed test battery and identified patients with cognitive impairment with a sensitivity of 76.7% and specificity of 78.6% for a cut-off value of ≤24 out of 30 points. In the detailed assessment executive functions accounted significantly for performance in the MoCA. The MMSE only discriminated weakly between groups.
The MoCA represents a suitable cognitive screening tool for hemodialysis patients, demonstrating good sensitivity and specificity levels, and covering executive functions, which appear to play an important role in cognitive performance of HD patients.
PMCID: PMC4209968  PMID: 25347578
We examined several vascular factors in relation to rates of decline in five cognitive domains in a population-based cohort. In an age-stratified random sample (N=1982) aged 65+ years, we assessed at baseline the cognitive domains of attention, executive function, memory, language, and visuospatial function, and also vascular, inflammatory, and metabolic indices. Random effects models generated slopes of cognitive decline over the next four years; linear models identified vascular factors associated with these slopes, adjusting for demographics, baseline cognition, and potential interactions. Several vascular risk factors (history of stroke, diabetes, central obesity, C-Reactive Protein), although associated with lower baseline cognitive performance, did not predict rate of subsequent decline. APOE*4 genotype was associated with accelerated decline in language, memory, and executive functions. Homocysteine elevation was associated with faster decline in executive function. Hypertension (history or systolic blood pressure >140 mm) was associated with slower decline in memory. Baseline alcohol consumption was associated with slower decline in attention, language, and memory. Different indices of vascular risk are associated with low performance and with rates of decline in different cognitive domains. Cardiovascular mechanisms explain at least some of the variance in cognitive decline. Selective survival may also play a role.
PMCID: PMC3945071  PMID: 24126216
19.  Human Immunodeficiency Virus Disease Severity, Psychiatric Symptoms, and Functional Outcomes in Perinatally Infected Youth 
To evaluate associations between human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease severity and psychiatric and functional outcomes in youth with perinatal HIV infection.
Cross-sectional analysis of entry data from an observational, prospective 2-year study. Logistic and linear regression models adjusted for potential confounders were used.
Twenty-nine sites of the International Maternal Pediatrics Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials Group study in the United States and Puerto Rico.
Youth aged 6 to 17 years who had HIV infection (N=319).
Main Exposures
Antiretroviral treatment and perinatal HIV infection.
Main Outcome Measures
Youth and primary care-givers were administered an extensive battery of measures that assessed psychiatric symptoms; cognitive, social, and academic functioning; and quality of life.
Characteristics of HIV were a current CD4 percentage of 25% or greater (74% of participants), HIV RNA levels of less than 400 copies/mL (59%), and current highly active antiretroviral therapy (81%). Analyses indicated associations of past and current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention class C designation with less severe attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder inattention symptoms, older age at nadir CD4 percentage and lower CD4 percentage at study entry with more severe conduct disorder symptoms, higher RNA viral load at study entry with more severe depression symptoms, and lower CD4 percentage at study entry with less severe symptoms of depression. There was little evidence of an association between specific antiretroviral therapy and severity of psychiatric symptoms. A lower nadir CD4 percentage was associated with lower quality of life, worse Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children Coding Recall scores, and worse social functioning.
Human immunodeficiency virus illness severity markers are associated with the severity of some psychiatric symptoms and, notably, with cognitive, academic, and social functioning, all of which warrant additional study.
Trial Registration Identifier: NCT00100542
PMCID: PMC3407294  PMID: 22312169
20.  Cannabis use and neurocognitive functioning in a non-clinical sample of users 
Addictive behaviors  2014;39(5):994-999.
With the recent debates over marijuana legalization and increases in use, it is critical to examine its role in cognition. While many studies generally support the adverse acute effects of cannabis on neurocognition, the non-acute effects remain less clear. The current study used a cross-sectional design to examine relationships between recent and past cannabis use on neurocognitive functioning in a non-clinical adult sample.
One hundred and fifty-eight participants were recruited through fliers distributed around local college campuses and the community. All participants completed the Brief Drug Use History Form, the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Disorders, and neurocognitive assessment, and underwent urine toxicology screening. Participants consisted of recent users (n = 68), past users (n = 41), and non-users (n = 49).
Recent users demonstrated significantly (p < .05) worse performance than non-users across cognitive domains of attention/working memory (M = 42.4, SD = 16.1 vs. M = 50.5, SD = 10.2), information processing speed (M = 44.3, SD = 7.3 vs. M = 52.1, SD = 11.0), and executive functioning (M = 43.6, SD = 13.4 vs. M = 48.6, SD = 7.2). There were no statistically significant differences between recent users and past users on neurocognitive performance. Frequency of cannabis use in the last 4 weeks was negatively associated with global neurocognitive performance and all individual cognitive domains. Similarly, amount of daily cannabis use was negatively associated with global neurocognitive performance and individual cognitive domains.
Our results support the widespread adverse effects of cannabis use on neurocognitive functioning. Although some of these adverse effects appear to attenuate with abstinence, past users' neurocognitive functioning was consistently lower than non-users.
PMCID: PMC4032061  PMID: 24556155
Cannabis; Cognition; Premorbid IQ; Abstinence; Past use; Abuse
21.  Trends in plasma HIV-RNA suppression and antiretroviral resistance in British Columbia, 1997-2010 
To examine temporal trends in plasma viral load (pVL) suppression and antiretroviral resistance from 1997-2010 in British Columbia (BC), Canada, and determine characteristics, pVL ranges, and resistance profiles of HIV-positive individuals with unsuppressed pVL in 2010.
HIV-positive individuals ≥19 years old in the provincial database at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS were included. Virologic suppression was defined as two consecutive pVL <500 copies/mL within each calendar year. Temporal trends were evaluated using the Cochran-Armitage test. Persons with suppressed vs. unsuppressed pVL in 2010 were compared using the Pearson χ2 or Fisher’s exact test (categorical variables) and the Wilcoxon rank-sum test (quantitative variables), including unsuppressed individuals only if they were on antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 2010 or their baseline CD4 count was <350 cells/mm3 or <500 cells/mm3, in separate analyses.
The proportion of individuals with suppressed pVL increased from 24% to 80% (p<0.001). In comparative analyses, individuals with unsuppressed pVL (877 of 6142) were more likely to be female (30% vs. 16%), younger (median 43 vs. 48 years), have injection drug use history (38% vs. 30%), report Aboriginal ancestry (30% vs. 16%), and have hepatitis C co-infection (57% vs. 34%) (all p<0.001). Similar patterns were observed using the <500 cells/mm3 CD4 cut-off. The median pVL of all unsuppressed individuals in 2010 was 12,896 copies/mL (IQR 1,495-47,763).
The proportion of individuals achieving pVL suppression in BC has increased markedly since 1997, however further efforts are needed to maximize the individual and societal benefits of modern ART.
PMCID: PMC4266465  PMID: 23978999
HIV; viral suppression; antiretroviral therapy; treatment as prevention; antiretroviral resistance; Canada
22.  Impact of Low-Level-Viremia on HIV-1 Drug-Resistance Evolution among Antiretroviral Treated-Patients 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36673.
Drug-resistance mutations (DRAM) are frequently selected in patients with virological failure defined as viral load (pVL) above 500 copies/ml (c/mL), but few resistance data are available at low-level viremia (LLV). Our objective was to determine the emergence and evolution of DRAM during LLV in HIV-1-infected patients while receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Retrospective analysis of patients presenting a LLV episode defined as pVL between 40 and 500 c/mL on at least 3 occasions during a 6-month period or longer while on the same ART. Resistance genotypic testing was performed at the onset and at the end of LLV period. Emerging DRAM was defined during LLV if never detected on baseline genotype or before.
48 patients including 4 naive and 44 pretreated (median 9 years) presented a LLV episode with a median duration of 11 months. Current ART included 2NRTI (94%), ritonavir-boosted PI (94%), NNRTI (23%), and/or raltegravir (19%). Median pVL during LLV was 134 c/mL. Successful resistance testing at both onset and end of the LLV episode were obtained for 37 patients (77%), among who 11 (30%) acquired at least 1 DRAM during the LLV period: for NRTI in 6, for NNRTI in 1, for PI in 4, and for raltegravir in 2. During the LLV period, number of drugs with genotypic resistance increased from a median of 4.5 to 6 drugs. Duration and pVL level of LLV episode, duration of previous ART, current and nadir CD4 count, number of baseline DRAM and GSS were not identified as predictive factors of resistance acquisition during LLV, probably due to limited number of patients.
Persistent LLV episodes below 500 c/ml while receiving ART is associated with emerging DRAM for all drug classes and a decreasing in further therapeutic options, suggesting to earlier consider resistance monitoring and ART optimization in this setting.
PMCID: PMC3349708  PMID: 22590588
23.  Antiretroviral Simplification with Darunavir/Ritonavir Monotherapy in Routine Clinical Practice: Safety, Effectiveness, and Impact on Lipid Profile 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37442.
Simplification of antiretroviral treatment (ART) with darunavir/ritonavir (DRV/r) monotherapy has achieved sustained suppression of plasma viral load (pVL) in clinical trials; however, its effectiveness and safety profile has not been evaluated in routine clinical practice.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We performed a retrospective cohort analysis of HIV-1-infected patients who initiated DRV/r monotherapy once daily with a pVL <50 copies/mL under ART and at least 1 subsequent follow-up visit in our clinic. The primary study endpoints were the percentage of patients with virological failure (VF, defined as 2 consecutive pVL>50 copies/mL) at week 48, and time to VF. Other causes of treatment discontinuation and changes in lipid profile were evaluated up to week 48. Ninety-two patients were followed for a median (IQR) of 73 (57–92) weeks. The median baseline and nadir CD4+ T-cell counts were 604 (433–837) and 238 (150–376) cells/mm3, respectively. Patients had previously received a median of 5 (3–9) ART lines and maintained a pVL<50 copies/mL for a median of 76 (32–176) weeks before initiating DRV/r monotherapy. Nine (9.8%) patients developed VF at week 48; time to VF was 47.1 (IQR: 36.1–47.8) weeks among patients with VF. Other reasons for changing ART were gastrointestinal disturbances (n = 3), rash (n = 1), and impaired CD4 recovery (n = 2). Median low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels increased from 116.1 mg/dL at baseline to 137.3 mg/dL at 48 weeks (p = 0.001).
Treatment simplification with DRV/r monotherapy seems safe and effective in routine clinical practice. Further research is needed to elucidate the effect of DRV/r monotherapy on cholesterol levels.
PMCID: PMC3362569  PMID: 22666357
24.  Cost of HAART in Italy: multicentric evaluation and determinants from a large HIV outpatient cohort 
As HIV infection turned into a chronic treatable disease, now ranking as one of the most costly in medicine, long-term sustainability of highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART) expenses became a major issue, especially in countries with universal access to care. Identification of determinants of higher HAART costs may therefore help in controlling costs of care, while keeping high levels of retention in care and viral suppression.
With this aim, we enrolled a large multicentric sample of consecutive unselected human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) patients followed at five sites of care in Italy, and evaluated annual individual HAART costs in relation to a number of sociodemographic, clinical, and laboratory variables.
We enrolled 2,044 patients, including 1,902 on HAART. Mean HAART costs were €9,377±€3,501 (range 782–29,852) per year, with remarkable site-based differences, possibly related to the different composition of local assisted populations. Percentages of patients on viral suppression were homogeneously high across all study sites. The factors identified by cross-validation were line of HAART, diagnosis of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, current CD4 T-cell count, and detectable HIV viremia >50 copies/mL. In the final multivariable model, HAART costs were independently directly associated with more advanced HAART line (P<0.001) and inversely correlated with current CD4 T-cell count (P=0.024). Site of care held independent prediction of higher costs, with marked control of expenses at sites 2 (P=0.001) and 5 (P<0.001).
Higher costs of HAART were strongly associated with previous treatment failures, detectable HIV viremia, and lower CD4 T-cell count at the time of evaluation, with no correlation at all with sex, age, hepatitis C virus coinfection, and nadir CD4 T-cell counts. Newer drugs, which are typically those associated with high prices, at the time of the analysis were still prevalently prescribed to rescue and maintain viral suppression in patients with more complex treatment history. Further analyses of the contribution of the single drug/regimen to the estimated cost are warranted.
PMCID: PMC4278727  PMID: 25565872
highly active antiretroviral treatment; human immunodeficiency virus; costs; treatment failures; viremia; current CD4 count
25.  Cardiovascular Disease and Cognitive Function in Maintenance Hemodialysis Patients 
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cognitive impairment are common in dialysis patients. Given the proposed role of microvascular disease on cognitive function, particularly cognitive domains that incorporate executive functions, we hypothesized that prevalent systemic CVD would be associated with worse cognitive performance in hemodialysis patients.
Cross-sectional cohort
Setting and Participants
200 maintenance hemodialysis patients without prior stroke from 5 Boston-area hemodialysis units
CVD, defined by history of coronary disease or peripheral vascular disease
Performance on a detailed neurocognitive battery. Primary analyses quantified cognitive performance using principal components analysis to reduce cognitive tests to a processing speed/executive function domain and a memory domain. Multivariable linear regression models adjusted for age, sex, education, race and other clinical and demographic characteristics.
Mean (SD) age of participants was 62 (18) years and 75 (38%) had CVD. Individuals with CVD were older, more likely to be men, diabetic, and current or former smokers. In adjusted models, individuals with CVD performed 0.50 standard deviations worse (p<0.001) on tests assessing processing speed/executive function, while there was no difference in performance on tests of memory. Similar results were seen when assessing individual tests, with performance on the block design, digit symbol coding and Trail Making Tests A and B significantly associated with CVD in age, sex, education and race-adjusted analyses and approaching toward significance in fully adjusted models.
CVD ascertainment dependent on patient recall and dialysis unit documentation. No brain imaging.
The presence of CVD is associated with worse cognitive performance on tests of processing speed and executive functioning in hemodialysis patients and identifies a high risk population for greater difficulty with complex tasks.
PMCID: PMC3199371  PMID: 21778003

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