Annals of internal medicine: Monitoring plasma HIV-1 RNA levels in addition to CD4+ lymphocyte count improves assessment of antiretroviral therapeutic response

Michael D. Hughes*, Victoria A. Johnson, Martin S. Hirsch, James W. Bremer, Tarek Elbeik, Alejo Erice, Daniel R. Kuritzkes, Walter A. Scott, Stephen A. Spector, Nesli Basgoz, Margaret A. Fischl, Richard T. D'Aquila

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

242 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: CD4+ lymphocyte counts and plasma HIV-1 RNA levels predict progression of HIV-related disease, but the relative importance of these and other virological factors in defining response to antiretroviral therapy is not yet clear. Objective: To determine the short-term variability of plasma HIV-1 RNA level during stable therapy; the relative importance of pretreatment values and early changes in CD4+ count, HIV-1 RNA levels, and infectious HIV-1 titers in mononuclear cells of peripheral blood and pretreatment syncytium-inducing phenotype of an HIV-1 isolate for prediction of disease progression and decline in CD4+ counts during therapy. Design: Data were collected prospectively in a randomized, clinical trial comparing two combination regimens (ACTG [AIDS Clinical Trials Group] Protocol 241) and pooled across treatments. Setting: 8 AIDS Clinical Trials Units. Patients: 198 adults with HIV-1 infection and no more than 350 CD4+ lymphocytes/mm3 who had received at least 6 months of nucleoside therapy. Interventions: All patients received zidovudine and didanosine; 100 received nevirapine and 98 received placebo. Measurements: CD4+ lymphocyte counts, plasma HIV-1 RNA levels, and infectious HIV-1 titers in cells were measured before and 8 and 48 weeks after study treatment. Assay for the syncytium-inducing viral phenotype was done at baseline. Progression was defined as occurrence of opportunistic infection, malignancy, or death during the 48 weeks after treatment began. Results: The difference between two measurements of HIV-1 RNA levels at baseline was within ±0.39 log10 copies/mL (2.5-fold) for 90% of 167 patients receiving stable therapy. In a multivariate model, risk for disease progression was reduced by 56% (95% CI, 8% to 79% [P 0.028]) for every 10-fold lower HIV-1 RNA level at baseline, by 52% (CI, 6% increase to 79% reduction [P - 0.071]) for every 10-fold reduction in HIV-1 RNA level at 8 weeks after-treatment initiation, and by 67% (CI, 42% to 81% [P< 0.001]) for every 2-fold higher CD4+ count at baseline. These risk factors and syncytium-inducing vital phenotype at baseline, but not infectious HIV-1 titers in circulating cells, were associated with change in CD4 counts over 48 weeks. Conclusions: For an individual patient, a change in plasma HIV-1 RNA level of 2.5-fold or more probably indicates a true biological change. Monitoring HIV-1 RNA levels and CD4+ lymphocytes before a change in antiretroviral treatment and monitoring HIV-1 RNA levels shortly thereafter improves prediction of disease progression and decline in CD4+ counts for 1 year compared with monitoring CD4+ counts or HIV-1 RNA levels alone. Additional monitoring of infectious HIV-1 titers in mononuclear cells of peripheral blood is not useful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)929-938
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of internal medicine
Volume126
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 15 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

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