Both T cell activation during early HIV-1 infection and soluble markers of immune activation during chronic infection are predictive of HIV disease progression. Although the acute phase of HIV infection is associated with increased pro-inflammatory cytokine production, the relationship between cytokine concentrations and HIV pathogenesis is unknown.
To identify cytokine biomarkers measurable in plasma during acute HIV-1 infection that predict HIV disease progression.
Study including 40 South African women who became infected with HIV-1 and were followed longitudinally from the time of infection.
The concentrations of 30 cytokines in plasma from women with acute HIV-1 infection were measured and associations between cytokine levels and both viral load set-point 12 months post-infection and time taken for CD4 counts to fall below 350 cells/μl were determined using multivariate and Cox proportional-hazards regression.
We found that the concentrations of 5 plasma cytokines, IL-12p40, IL-12p70, IFN-γ, IL-7 and IL-15, in women with acute infection predicted 66% of the variation in viral load set-point 12 months post infection. IL-12p40, IL-12p70 and IFN-γ were significantly associated with lower viral load whereas IL-7 and IL-15 were associated with higher viral load. Plasma concentrations of IL-12p40 and GM-CSF during acute infection were associated with maintenance of CD4 counts above 350 cells/μl while IL-1α, eotaxin and IL-7 were associated with more rapid CD4 loss.
A small panel of plasma cytokines during acute HIV-1 infection was predictive of long-term HIV disease prognosis in this group of South African women.