ObjectiveWe compared the proviral DNA level in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), viral RNA level in plasma, presence of p24 antigen in serum, viral phenotype, and results of immunological markers of HIV-1 disease. MethodsConsecutive samples of 62 HIV-1-infected patients, representing all stages of disease were tested for proviral DNA in PBMC and viral RNA in plasma using a semi-quantitative limiting dilution polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The presence of a syncytium-inducing (SI) phenotype was assessed after direct cocultivation of patient PBMC with MT-2 cells. Results of the quantitative PCR and the MT-2 coculture were correlated with the clinical stage of the disease, with the number of CD4+ T cells, and with the results of other virological and immunological markers, such as the level of p24 antigen, β2-microglobulin (β2M) and neopterin. ResultsSignificant differences were observed between the results for asymptomatic and symptomatic patients for all markers under study. In the group of asymptomatic patients with a CD4+T-cell count > 200 × 106/l, patients with high amounts of proviral DNA had significantly higher amounts of β2M, neopterin and viral RNA, they were more frequently p24 antigen-positive and harboured more frequently SI strains than patients with low amounts of proviral DNA. A good correlation between the proviral DNA and the viral RNA levels was observed. Significant changes of viral RNA but not proviral DNA levels were observed after initiation of therapy or when therapy failed. ConclusionsWe demonstrated the relationship between high proviral DNA level in PBMC, high viral load in plasma, elevated β2M and neopterin concentrations in serum, and the presence of p24 antigen in serum in a group of asymptomatic patients with a CD4+ T-cell count > 200 × 106/l. We suggest the possible usefulness of proviral load as an early indicator of disease progression. The presence of SI strains is highly correlated with disease; however, SI strains were detected in only 46% of symptomatic patients. It also appeared that the measurement of viral RNA levels is a useful marker for therapy monitoring.
C. Verhofstede, S. Reniers, F. V. Wanzeele