Early highly active antiretroviral therapy for acute HIV-1 infection preserves immune function of CD8+ and CD4+ T lymphocytes.
Oxenius A., Price DA., Easterbrook PJ., O'Callaghan CA., Kelleher AD., Whelan JA., Sontag G., Sewell AK., Phillips RE.
Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has been advocated for the management of primary HIV-1 infection without clear understanding of its immunological effects. Here, we demonstrate that early use of HAART during primary infection preserves HIV-specific CD8(+) T cells physically and functionally while HIV-specific T cell help is sustained. We also show that even transient administration of HAART at seroconversion can preserve HIV-specific immunity. In contrast, delayed initiation of HAART is associated with a progressive loss of HIV-specific CD8(+) T cells and absent HIV-specific T cell help. These results imply that HIV-specific T help is damaged during primary HIV-1 infection. Early drug treatment, which preserves this immunity, also preserves HIV-specific CD8(+) T cells. These results have implications for understanding the early pathogenesis of HIV-1 infection and suggest that acute HIV infection should be treated aggressively and as early as possible.