Viral load, CD4+ T-lymphocyte counts and antibody titres in HIV-1 infected untreated children in Kenya; implication for immunodeficiency and AIDS progression.
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ere are limited reports on HIV-1 RNA load, CD4+ T-lymphocytes and antibody responses in relation to disease progression in HIV-1 infected untreated children in Africa. METHODS: To describe the relationships between these parameters, we conducted a longitudinal cohort study involving 51 perinatally HIV-1 infected children aged between 1 and 13 years. HIV status was determined by ELISA and confirmed by western blot and PCR. Antibodies were quantified by limiting dilution ELISA, plasma HIV-1 RNA load by RT-PCR and CD4+ T-lymphocytes by FACSCount. RESULTS: Asymptomatic and symptomatic disease had, respectively, a rise in median HIV-1 RNA load from 1,195 to 132,543 and from 42,962 to 1,109,281 copies/ml in children below 6 years. The increase in viral load was 10-fold higher for asymptomatic compared to other categories and 2-fold faster for children less than 6 years than those above. Similarly, symptomatic children below 6 years had initial median CD4+ T-lymphocyte counts of 647 (22%) cells/muL, declining to 378 (20%) while those above 6 years had initial values of below 335 (15%) but which increased to 428 (17%). Median viral load correlated significantly with median CD4+ T-lymphocyte percentage in children above 6 years (p=0.026) but not below. CONCLUSIONS: Viral load is lower in older than younger children and correlates significantly with percentage CD4+ T-lymphocytes. Survival by HIV-1 infected children requires a competent immune response early in infection to counter the rapidly replicating virus. Interventions aimed at boosting the naïve immune system may prolong survival in these children.