Incomplete peripheral CD4+ cell count restoration in HIV-infected patients receiving long-term antiretroviral treatment

Academic Article


  • Background. Although antiretroviral therapy has the ability to fully restore a normal CD4+ cell count (>500 cells/mm3) in most patients, it is not yet clear whether all patients can achieve normalization of their CD4+ cell count, in part because no study has followed up patients for >7 years. Methods. Three hundred sixty-six patients from 5 clinical cohorts who maintained a plasma human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) RNA level ≤1000 copies/mL for at least 4 years after initiation of antiretroviral therapy were included. Changes in CD4+ cell count were evaluated using mixed-effects modeling, spline-smoothing regression, and Kaplan-Meier techniques. Results. The majority (83%) of the patients were men. The median CD4+ cell count at the time of therapy initiation was 201 cells/mm3 (interquartile range, 72-344 cells/mm3), and the median age was 47 years. The median follow-up period was 7.5 years (interquartile range, 5.5-9.7 years). CD4+ cell counts continued to increase throughout the follow-up period, albeit slowly after year 4. Although almost all patients (95%) who started therapy with a CD4+ cell count ≥300 cells/mm3 were able to attain a CD4+ cell count ≥500 cells/mm3, 44% of patients who started therapy with a CD4+ cell count <100 cells/mm3 and 25% of patients who started therapy with a CD4+ cell count of 100-200 cells/mm3 were unable to achieve a CD4+ cell count >500 cells/mm3 over a mean duration of follow-up of 7.5 years; many did not reach this threshold by year 10. Twenty-four percent of individuals with a CD4+ cell count <500 cells/mm3 at year 4 had evidence of a CD4+ cell count plateau after year 4. The frequency of detectable viremia ("blips") after year 4 was not associated with the magnitude of the CD4+ cell count change. Conclusions. A substantial proportion of patients who delay therapy until their CD4+ cell count decreases to <200 cells/mm3 do not achieve a normal CD4+ cell count, even after a decade of otherwise effective antiretroviral therapy. Although the majority of patients have evidence of slow increases in their CD4+ cell count over time, many do not. These individuals may have an elevated risk of non-AIDS-related morbidity and mortality. © 2009 by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. All rights reserved.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Kelley CF; Kitchen CMR; Hunt PW; Rodriguez B; Hecht FM; Kitahata M; Crane HM; Willig J; Mugavero M; Saag M
  • Start Page

  • 787
  • End Page

  • 794
  • Volume

  • 48
  • Issue

  • 6