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Background: In advanced HIV, significant mortality occurs soon after starting antiretroviral treatment (ART) in low- and middle-incomes countries. Calprotectin is a biomarker of innate response to infection and inflammatory conditions. We examined the association between plasma calprotectin at initiation of ART and mortality among individuals with advanced HIV. Methods: We conducted a pilot case-cohort study among HIV infected adults and children over 5 years old with CD4+ <100/mm3 at ART initiation at two Kenyan sites. Participants received three factorial randomised interventions in addition to ART within the REALITY trial (ISRCTN43622374). Calprotectin was measured by ELISA in archived plasma of those who died within 24 weeks (cases) and randomly selected participants who survived for 48 weeks (non-cases) for whom samples were available. Factors associated with baseline plasma calprotectin were investigated using linear regression. To test association with mortality, Cox proportional hazards models with inverse sampling probability weights and adjusted for age, sex, site, BMI, viral load, randomised treatments, and clustered by CD4 count were fitted. Results: Baseline median (IQR) plasma calprotectin was 6.82 (2.65–12.5) µg/ml in cases (n=39) and 5.01 (1.92–11.5) µg/ml in non-cases (n=58). Baseline calprotectin was associated with age, neutrophil count and the presence of cough, but not other measured indicators of infection. In adjusted multivariable models, baseline calprotectin was associated with subsequent mortality: HR 1.64 (95% CI 1.11 - 2.42) and HR 2.77 (95% CI 1.58 - 4.88) for deaths during the first twenty-four and four weeks respectively. Calprotectin levels fell between baseline and 4 weeks among both cases and non-cases irrespective of randomised interventions. Conclusion: Among individuals with advanced HIV starting ART in Kenya, plasma calprotectin may have potential as a biomarker of early mortality. Validation in larger studies, comparison with other biomarkers and investigation of the sources of infection and inflammation are warranted.

Original publication




Journal article


Wellcome Open Research


F1000 Research Ltd

Publication Date





46 - 46