Immunological and virological markers of disease progression in HIV‐infected children
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), virus culture and antigen detection assays are useful for early detection of vertically transmitted human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV‐1) infection in infants under 12 months of age. Sixty‐four children born to HIV‐1‐seropositive mothers were evaluated. Thirteen children (20.3%) were repeatedly positive by PCR analysis. There was 100% concordance between the results obtained from PCR and culture assays. Measurement of p24 antigen in serum was, in contrast, a less sensitive marker of HIV infection: only 5/13 infants had positive p24 antigen results. We have investigated the relationship among the HIV‐1 biological phenotype, replicative capacity of viral isolates, HIV RNA copy number in plasma, p24 antigenaemia, CD4 T lymphocyte counts and the clinical status in 13 HIV‐infected infants. Six out of 13 HIV‐1 isolates from these patients were classified as rapid/high and seven as slow/low. We have found a significantly positive correlation between the replication rate of HIV isolates and their capacity to induce syncytia in vitro. The HIV‐1 isolates with rapid/high and syncytium‐inducing phenotype, and isolates with slow/low and non‐syncytium‐inducing phenotype were obtained from infants who had HIV‐1 RNA copy number ml−1 plasma values of 27654–83520 and 1342–34321, respectively. Levels of HIV‐1 RNA were measured in sequential plasma samples from three HIV‐infected infants and their biological properties determined in vitro. Our findings indicate that infants who carried viruses with more cytophatic biological phenotype and who had higher viral RNA copy numbers in blood were more likely to have lower CD4+ T cell counts and more likely to develop full‐blown AIDS.
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