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1.  The potential impact of routine testing of individuals with HIV indicator diseases in order to prevent late HIV diagnosis 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:473.
Background
The aim of our work was to evaluate the potential impact of the European policy of testing for HIV all individuals presenting with an indicator disease, to prevent late diagnosis of HIV. We report on a retrospective analysis among individuals diagnosed with HIV to assess whether a history of certain diseases prior to HIV diagnosis was associated with the chance of presenting late for care, and to estimate the proportion of individuals presenting late who could have been diagnosed earlier if tested when the indicator disease was diagnosed.
Methods
We studied a large cohort of individuals newly diagnosed with HIV infection in 13 counselling and testing sites in the Lazio Region, Italy (01/01/2004-30/04/2009). Considered indicator diseases were: viral hepatitis infection (HBV/HCV), sexually transmitted infections, seborrhoeic dermatitis and tuberculosis. Logistic regression analysis was performed to estimate association of occurrence of at least one indicator disease with late HIV diagnosis.
Results
In our analysis, the prevalence of late HIV diagnosis was 51.3% (890/1735). Individuals reporting at least one indicator disease before HIV diagnosis (29% of the study population) had a lower risk of late diagnosis (OR = 0.7; 95%CI: 0.5-0.8) compared to those who did not report a previous indicator disease. 52/890 (5.8%) late presenters were probably already infected at the time the indicator disease was diagnosed, a median of 22.6 months before HIV diagnosis.
Conclusions
Our data suggest that testing for HIV following diagnosis of an indicator disease significantly decreases the probability of late HIV diagnosis. Moreover, for 5.5% of late HIV presenters, diagnosis could have been anticipated if they had been tested when an HIV indicator disease was diagnosed.
However, this strategy for enhancing early HIV diagnosis needs to be complemented by client-centred interventions that aim to increase awareness in people who do not perceive themselves as being at risk for HIV.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-13-473
PMCID: PMC3852490  PMID: 24112129
HIV testing; Indicator diseases; Sexually transmitted infections; Late diagnosis
2.  HIV incidence estimate combining HIV/AIDS surveillance, testing history information and HIV test to identify recent infections in Lazio, Italy 
Background
The application of serological methods in HIV/AIDS routine surveillance systems to identify persons with recently acquired HIV infection has been proposed as a tool which may provide an accurate description of the current transmission patterns of HIV. Using the information about recent infection it is possible to estimate HIV incidence, according to the model proposed by Karon et al. in 2008, that accounts for the effect of testing practices on the number of persons detected as recently infected.
Methods
We used data from HIV/AIDS surveillance in the period 2004-2008 to identify newly diagnosed persons. These were classified with recent/non-recent infection on the basis of an avidity index result, or laboratory evidence of recently acquired infection (i.e., previous documented negative HIV test within 6 months; or presence of HIV RNA or p24 antigen with simultaneous negative/indeterminate HIV antibody test). Multiple imputation was used to impute missing information. The incidence estimate was obtained as the number of persons detected as recently infected divided by the estimated probability of detection. Estimates were stratified by calendar year, transmission category, gender and nationality.
Results
During the period considered 3,633 new HIV diagnoses were reported to the regional surveillance system. Applying the model, we estimated that in 2004-2008 there were 5,465 new infections (95%CI: 4,538-6,461); stratifying by transmission category, the estimated number of infections was 2,599 among heterosexual contacts, 2,208 among men-who-have-sex-with-men, and 763 among injecting-drug-users. In 2008 there were 952 (625-1,229) new HIV infections (incidence of 19.9 per 100,000 person-years). In 2008, for men-who-have-sex-with-men (691 per 100,000 person-years) and injecting drug users (577 per 100,000 person-years) the incidence remained comparatively high with respect to the general population, although a decreasing pattern during 2004-2008 was observed for injecting-drug-users.
Conclusions
These estimates suggest that the transmission of HIV infection in Lazio remains frequent and men-who-have-sex-with men and injecting-drug-users are still greatly affected although the majority of new infections occurs among heterosexual individuals.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-12-65
PMCID: PMC3359282  PMID: 22433313
HIV incidence; Test for recent infection; Testing history; Avidity index
3.  Detection of Pulmonary tuberculosis: comparing MR imaging with HRCT 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2011;11:243.
Background
Computer Tomography (CT) is considered the gold standard for assessing the morphological changes of lung parenchyma. Although novel CT techniques have substantially decreased the radiation dose, radiation exposure is still high. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has been established as a radiation- free alternative to CT for several lung diseases, but its role in infectious diseases still needs to be explored further. Therefore, the purpose of our study was to compare MRI with high resolution CT (HRCT) for assessing pulmonary tuberculosis.
Methods
50 patients with culture-proven pulmonary tuberculosis underwent chest HRCT as the standard of reference and were evaluated by MRI within 24 h after HRCT. Altogether we performed 60 CT and MRI examinations, because 10 patients were also examined by CT and MRI at follow- up. Pulmonary abnormalities, their characteristics, location and distribution were analyzed by two readers who were blinded to the HRCT results.
Results
Artifacts did not interfere with the diagnostic value of MRI. Both HRCT and MRI correctly diagnosed pulmonary tuberculosis and identified pulmonary abnormalities in all patients. There were no significant differences between the two techniques in terms of identifying the location and distribution of the lung lesions, though the higher resolution of MRI did allow for better identification of parenchymal dishomogeneity, caseosis, and pleural or nodal involvement.
Conclusion
Technical developments and the refinement of pulse sequences have improved the quality and speed of MRI. Our data indicate that in terms of identifying lung lesions in non-AIDS patients with non- miliary pulmonary tuberculosis, MRI achieves diagnostic performances comparable to those obtained by HRCT but with better and more rapid identification of pulmonary tissue abnormalities due to the excellent contrast resolution.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-243
PMCID: PMC3184086  PMID: 21923910
4.  IP-10 response to RD1 antigens might be a useful biomarker for monitoring tuberculosis therapy 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2011;11:135.
Background
There is an urgent need of prognosis markers for tuberculosis (TB) to improve treatment strategies. The results of several studies show that the Interferon (IFN)-γ-specific response to the TB antigens of the QuantiFERON TB Gold (QFT-IT antigens) decreases after successful TB therapy. The objective of this study was to evaluate whether there are factors other than IFN-γ [such as IFN-γ inducible protein (IP)-10 which has also been associated with TB] in response to QFT-IT antigens that can be used as biomarkers for monitoring TB treatment.
Methods
In this exploratory study we assessed the changes in IP-10 secretion in response to QFT-IT antigens and RD1 peptides selected by computational analysis in 17 patients with active TB at the time of diagnosis and after 6 months of treatment. The IFN-γ response to QFT-IT antigens and RD1 selected peptides was evaluated as a control. A non-parametric Wilcoxon signed-rank test for paired comparisons was used to compare the continuous variables at the time of diagnosis and at therapy completion. A Chi-square test was used to compare proportions.
Results
We did not observe significant IP-10 changes in whole blood from either NIL or QFT-IT antigen tubes, after 1-day stimulation, between baseline and therapy completion (p = 0.08 and p = 0.7 respectively). Conversely, the level of IP-10 release to RD1 selected peptides was significantly different (p = 0.006). Similar results were obtained when we detected the IFN-γ in response to the QFT-IT antigens (p = 0.06) and RD1 selected peptides (p = 0.0003). The proportion of the IP-10 responders to the QFT-IT antigens did not significantly change between baseline and therapy completion (p = 0.6), whereas it significantly changed in response to RD1 selected peptides (p = 0.002). The proportion of IFN-γ responders between baseline and therapy completion was not significant for QFT-IT antigens (p = 0.2), whereas it was significant for the RD1 selected peptides (p = 0.002), confirming previous observations.
Conclusions
Our preliminary study provides an interesting hypothesis: IP-10 response to RD1 selected peptides (similar to IFN-γ) might be a useful biomarker for monitoring therapy efficacy in patients with active TB. However, further studies in larger cohorts are needed to confirm the consistency of these study results.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-135
PMCID: PMC3120672  PMID: 21595874
5.  IP-10 detection in urine is associated with lung diseases 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:333.
Background
blood cytokines and chemokines have been proposed as biomarkers for tuberculosis (TB). Recently, some immune mediators found in the urine of patients with renal dysfunctions have also been suggested as potential biomarkers. Finding biomarkers for TB in urine would present several advantages over blood in terms of collection and safety. The objective of this study was to investigate the presence of cytokines and chemokines in the urine of patients with pulmonary TB at the time of diagnosis. In a subgroup, the evaluation was also performed during TB treatment and at therapy completion. Patients with lung diseases other than TB, and healthy subjects were also enrolled.
Methods
urine samples from 138 individuals, after exclusion of renal dysfunctions, were collected during an 18 month-period. Among them, 58 received a diagnosis of pulmonary TB, 28 resulted having lung diseases other than TB, and 34 were healthy subjects. Moreover, 18 TB patients, 9 of whom were tested 2 months after AFB smear sputum reversion and 9 of whom were cured of TB were also included. Cytokines and chemokines in urine were evaluated using a Cytometric-Bead-Array-Flex-Set. IP-10 detection in 49 subjects was also carried out in parallel by using an Enzyme Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay (ELISA).
Results
IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-2, IL-8, MIP-1α, MIP-1β and RANTES were poorly detected in all urine samples. Conversely, IP-10 was consistently detected in urine and its level was significantly increased in patients with lung disease compared to healthy subjects (p < 0.001). Increased IP-10 levels were found in both pulmonary TB and lung diseases other than TB. Moreover lower IP-10 levels were found in cured-TB patients compared to the levels at the time of diagnosis, and this difference was close to significance (p = 0.06). Interestingly, we demonstrated a significant correlation between the data obtained by flow cytometry and ELISA (r2 0.82, p < 0.0001).
Conclusions
IP-10, in contrast to IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-2, IL-8, MIP-1α, MIP-1β and RANTES, is detectable in the urine of patients with pulmonary diseases in the absence of renal dysfunctions. Moreover, the IP-10 level in cured-TB patients is comparable to that found in healthy subjects. More studies are needed to further investigate the clinical utility of these findings.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-333
PMCID: PMC2995466  PMID: 21092156
6.  New tools for detecting latent tuberculosis infection: evaluation of RD1-specific long-term response 
Background
Interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) release assays (IGRAs) were designed to detect latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI). However, discrepancies were found between the tuberculin skin test (TST) and IGRAs results that cannot be attributed to prior Bacille Calmètte Guerin vaccinations. The aim of this study was to evaluate tools for improving LTBI diagnosis by analyzing the IFN-γ response to RD1 proteins in prolonged (long-term response) whole blood tests in those subjects resulting negative to assays such as QuantiFERON-TB Gold In tube (QFT-IT).
Methods
The study population included 106 healthy TST+ individuals with suspected LTBI (recent contact of smear-positive TB and homeless) consecutively enrolled. As controls, 13 healthy subjects unexposed to M. tuberculosis (TST-, QFT-IT-) and 29 subjects with cured pulmonary TB were enrolled. IFN-γ whole blood response to RD1 proteins and QFT-IT were evaluated at day 1 post-culture. A prolonged test evaluating long-term IFN-γ response (7-day) to RD1 proteins in diluted whole blood was performed.
Results
Among the enrolled TST+ subjects with suspected LTBI, 70/106 (66.0%) responded to QFT-IT and 64/106 (60.3%) to RD1 proteins at day 1. To evaluate whether a prolonged test could improve the detection of LTBI, we set up the test using cured TB patients (with a microbiologically diagnosed past pulmonary disease) who resulted QFT-IT-negative and healthy controls as comparator groups. Using this assay, a statistically significant difference was found between IFN-γ levels in cured TB patients compared to healthy controls (p < 0.006). Based on these data, we constructed a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve and we calculated a cut-off. Based on the cut-off value, we found that among the 36 enrolled TST+ subjects with suspected LTBI not responding to QFT-IT, a long term response to RD1 proteins was detected in 11 subjects (30.6%).
Conclusion
These results indicate that IFN-γ long-term response to M. tuberculosis RD1 antigens may be used to detect past infection with M. tuberculosis and may help to identify additional individuals with LTBI who resulted negative in the short-term tests. These data may provide useful information for improving immunodiagnostic tests for tuberculosis infection, especially in individuals at high risk for active TB.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-182
PMCID: PMC2784468  PMID: 19930588
7.  Characterization of the patterns of drug-resistance mutations in newly diagnosed HIV-1 infected patients naïve to the antiretroviral drugs 
Background
The transmission of HIV-1 drug-resistant strains in drug naive patients may seriously compromise the efficacy of a first-line antiretroviral treatment. To better define this problem, a study in a cohort of newly diagnosed HIV-1 infected individuals has been conducted. This study is aimed to assess the prevalence and the patterns of the mutations recently associated with transmitted drug resistance in the reverse transcriptase (RT) and in protease (PR) of HIV-1.
Methods
Prevalence of transmitted drug resistant strains is determined in 255 newly diagnosed HIV-1 infected patients enrolled in different counselling and testing (CT) centres in Central Italy; the Avidity Index (AI) on the first available serum sample is also used to estimate time since infection. Logistic regression models are used to determine factors associated with infection by drug resistant HIV-1 strains.
Results
The prevalence of HIV-1 strains with at least one major drug resistance mutation is 5.9% (15/255); moreover, 3.9% (10/255) of patients is infected with HIV nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI)-resistant viruses, 3.5% (9/255) with HIV non-NRTI-resistant viruses and 0.4% (1/255) with HIV protease inhibitor (PI)-resistant viruses. Most importantly, almost half (60.0%) of patients carries HIV-1 resistant strains with more than one major drug resistance mutation. In addition, patients who had acquired HIV through homosexual intercourses are more likely to harbour a virus with at least one primary resistance mutation (OR 7.7; 95% CI: 1.7–35.0, P = 0.008).
Conclusion
The prevalence of drug resistant HIV-1 strains among newly diagnosed individuals in Central Italy is consistent with the data from other European countries. Nevertheless, the presence of drug-resistance HIV-1 mutations in complex patterns highlights an additional potential risk for public health and strongly supports the extension of wide genotyping to newly diagnosed HIV-1 infected patients.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-111
PMCID: PMC2725045  PMID: 19607681
8.  Lack of implementation of Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) vaccination policy in household contacts of HBV carriers in Italy 
Background
In Italy, HBV vaccination is recommended and offered free of charge through the National Health Service to selected population groups – e.g., family members of an HBsAg carrier, healthcare workers, newborns and those who were 12-years old in 1991. However, a significant proportion of cases of acute hepatitis B still occur in Italy among persons who should have been vaccinated. We analysed HBV sero-prevalence data of two vaccination target populations (people born after 1980 and household contacts of an HBV carrier) living in a southern Italian area in order to evaluate HBV vaccine coverage and its possible determinants.
Methods
Between 2003 and 2006, we carried out a cross-sectional, population-based, sero-epidemiological survey on HBV infection on 4496 randomly selected individuals (aged 20 years or more) from the general population of the province of Naples. Sera were tested for antibodies to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc) and to hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBsAg) by commercial immunoassays. Prevalence of past or current HBV infection and of HBV vaccination-induced immunity was calculated in two vaccination target populations. To analyze the association of epidemiological and socioeconomic characteristics with HBV vaccination of household contacts, we calculated crude and multiple logistic regression (MLR) odds ratio (OR).
Results
Prevalence of HBV vaccine-induced immunity (anti-HBs alone) was much lower among household contacts (25%) than among those who had been targeted for universal adolescent vaccination (81.6%). Male sex, older age, unemployment and lower education levels were associated to lower immunization rates.
Conclusion
Understanding the different uptake of hepatitis B vaccination in these populations may provide useful information for optimizing vaccination campaigns in other contexts. Our data clearly demonstrated the need of improving the uptake of vaccination for household contacts of HBV carriers.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-86
PMCID: PMC2702368  PMID: 19500412
9.  Response to M. tuberculosis selected RD1 peptides in Ugandan HIV-infected patients with smear positive pulmonary tuberculosis: a pilot study 
Background
Tuberculosis (TB) is the most frequent co-infection in HIV-infected individuals still presenting diagnostic difficulties particularly in developing countries. Recently an assay based on IFN-gamma response to M. tuberculosis RD1 peptides selected by computational analysis was developed whose presence is detected during active TB disease. Objective of this study was to investigate the response to selected RD1 peptides in HIV-1-infected subjects with or without active TB in a country endemic for TB and to evaluate the change of this response over time.
Methods
30 HIV-infected individuals were prospectively enrolled, 20 with active TB and 10 without. Among those with TB, 12 were followed over time. IFN-gamma response to selected RD1 peptides was evaluated by enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay. As control, response to RD1 proteins was included. Results were correlated with immune, microbiological and virological data.
Results
Among patients with active TB, 2/20 were excluded from the analysis, one due to cell artifacts and the other to unresponsiveness to M. tuberculosis antigens. Among those analyzable, response to selected RD1 peptides evaluated as spot-forming cells was significantly higher in subjects with active TB compared to those without (p = 0.02). Among the 12 TB patients studied over time a significant decrease (p =< 0.007) of IFN-gamma response was found at completion of therapy when all the sputum cultures for M. tuberculosis were negative. A ratio of RD1 peptides ELISPOT counts over CD4+ T-cell counts greater than 0.21 yielded 100% sensitivity and 80% specificity for active TB. Conversely, response to RD1 intact proteins was not statistically different between subjects with or without TB at the time of recruitment; however a ratio of RD1 proteins ELISPOT counts over CD4+ T-cell counts greater than 0.22 yielded 89% sensitivity and 70% specificity for active TB.
Conclusion
In this pilot study the response to selected RD1 peptides is associated with TB disease in HIV-infected individuals in a high TB endemic country. This response decreases after successful therapy. The potential of the novel approach of relating ELISPOT spot-forming cell number and CD4+ T-cell count may improve the possibility of diagnosing active TB and deserves further evaluation.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-8-11
PMCID: PMC2267196  PMID: 18226199

Results 1-9 (9)