HIV infection is characterised by persistent immune dysfunction of both the adaptive and innate immune responses. The aim of this study was to evaluate these responses using a novel high throughput assay in healthy controls and HIV-infected individuals prior to and following anti-retroviral treatment (ART).
Whole blood was assessed using the QuantiFERON Monitor® (QFM) assay containing adaptive and innate immunostimulants. Interferon (IFN)-γ levels (IU/mL) were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
We recruited HIV-infected participants (n = 20 off ART and viremic; n = 59 on suppressive ART) and HIV-uninfected controls (n = 229). Median IFN-γ production was significantly higher in HIV-infected participants compared to controls (IFN-γ 512 vs 223 IU/ml, p<0.0001), but within the HIV-infected participants there was no difference between those on or off ART (median IFN-γ 512 vs 593 IU/ml p = 0.94). Amongst the HIV-infected participants, IFN-γ production was higher in individuals with CD4 count>350 compared to <350 cells/μL (IFN-γ IU/ml 561 vs 259 p = 0.02) and in males compared to females (IFN-γ 542 vs 77 IU/ml p = 0.04). There were no associations between IFN-γ production and age, plasma HIV RNA, nadir CD4 count or duration of HIV infection. Using a multivariable analysis, neither CD4 nor sex were independently predictive of IFN-γ production.
Using a high throughput assay which assesses both adaptive and innate immune function, we showed elevated IFN-γ production in HIV-infected patients both on and off ART. Further research is warranted to determine if changes in QuantiFERON Monitor® are associated with clinical outcomes.
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