To assess T-helper cell immune function (proliferation) in members of the Sydney Blood Bank Cohort (SBBC) compared with other individuals with transfusion- and sexually acquired HIV-1 infection and with matched HIV-negative controls.
Decreasing CD4 counts and T-helper cell function are associated with disease progression. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from study subjects were assayed for in vitro proliferative responses to HIV-1-derived antigens, recall antigens and alloantigen. T-helper cell function and CD4 counts in members of the SBBC were followed longitudinally.
Proliferative responses and CD4 counts from members of the SBBC were similar to or better than those of other transfusion- or sexually-acquired HIV-1-positive long-term non-progressors (LTNP), including the HIV-negative matched SBBC control groups. However, individuals with disease progression had reduced or undetectable proliferative responses to recall antigens but a conserved response to alloantigen; they also had low CD4 counts and low CD4:CD8 ratios. In the SBBC, these immune parameters were usually stable over time.
The unique SBBC with natural nef/long terminal repeat deletions in the HIV-1 genome were genuine LTNP without showing signs of disease progression. They appeared to be a group distinct from the tail-end of the normal distribution of disease progression rates, and may remain asymptomatic indefinitely. The SBBC virus may form the basis of a live attenuated immunotherapeutic or immunoprophylactic HIV vaccine.