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Research Article

Immunological abnormalities in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected asymptomatic homosexual men. HIV affects the immune system before CD4+ T helper cell depletion occurs.

F Miedema, A J Petit, F G Terpstra, J K Schattenkerk, F de Wolf, B J Al, M Roos, J M Lange, S A Danner and J Goudsmit

Central Laboratory of the Netherlands Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Published December 1988

To investigate the effect of persistent HIV infection on the immune system, we studied leukocyte functions in 14 asymptomatic homosexual men (CDC group II/III) who were at least two years seropositive, but who still had normal numbers of circulating CD4+ T cells. Compared with age-matched heterosexual men and HIV-negative homosexual men, the CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from seropositive men showed decreased proliferation to anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody and decreased CD4+ T-helper activity on PWM-driven differentiation of normal donor B cells. Monocytes of HIV-infected homosexual men showed decreased accessory function on normal T cell proliferation induced by CD3 monoclonal antibody. The most striking defect in leukocyte functional activities was observed in the B cells of HIV-infected men. B cells of 13 out of 14 seropositive men failed to produce Ig in response to PWM in the presence of adequate allogeneic T-helper activity. These findings suggest that HIV induces severe immunological abnormalities in T cells, B cells, and antigen-presenting cells early in infection before CD4+ T cell numbers start to decline. Impaired immunological function in subclinically HIV-infected patients may have clinical implications for vaccination strategies, in particular the use of live vaccines in groups with a high prevalence of HIV seropositivity.

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