BACKGROUND AND METHODS: The Sydney Blood Bank Cohort consists of a blood donor and eight transfusion recipients who were infected before 1985 with a strain of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) with a deletion in the region in which the nef gene and the long terminal repeat overlap. Two recipients have died since 1994, at 77 and 83 years of age, of causes unrelated to HIV infection; one other recipient, who had systemic lupus erythematosus, died in 1987 at 22 years of age of causes possibly related to HIV. We present longitudinal immunologic and virologic data on the six surviving members and one deceased member of this cohort through September 30, 1998.
RESULTS: The five surviving recipients remain asymptomatic 14 to 18 years after HIV-1 infection without any antiretroviral therapy; however, the donor commenced therapy in February 1999. In three recipients plasma concentrations of HIV-1 RNA are undetectable (<200 copies per milliliter), and in two of these three the CD4 lymphocyte counts have declined by 9 and 30 cells per cubic millimeter per year (P=0.3 and P=0.5, respectively). The donor and two other recipients have median plasma concentrations of HIV-1 RNA of 645 to 2850 copies per milliliter; the concentration has increased in the donor (P<0.001). The CD4 lymphocyte counts in these three cohort members have declined by 16 to 73 cells per cubic millimeter per year (P<0.001). In the recipient who died after 12 years of infection, the median plasma concentration of HIV-1 RNA was 1400 copies per milliliter, with a decline in CD4 lymphocyte counts of 17 cells per cubic millimeter per year (P=0.2).
CONCLUSIONS: After prolonged infection with this attenuated strain of HIV-1, there is evidence of immunologic damage in three of the four subjects with detectable plasma HIV-1 RNA. The CD4 lymphocyte counts appear to be stable in the three subjects in whom plasma HIV-1 RNA remains undetectable.