Despite antiretroviral therapy (ART), some HIV-infected persons maintain lower than normal CD4(+) T-cell counts in peripheral blood and in the gut mucosa. This incomplete immune restoration is associated with higher levels of immune activation manifested by high systemic levels of biomarkers, including sCD14 and D-dimer, that are independent predictors of morbidity and mortality in HIV infection. In this 12-week, single-arm, open-label study, we tested the efficacy of IL-7 adjunctive therapy on T-cell reconstitution in peripheral blood and gut mucosa in 23 ART suppressed HIV-infected patients with incomplete CD4(+) T-cell recovery, using one cycle (consisting of three subcutaneous injections) of recombinant human IL-7 (r-hIL-7) at 20 µg/kg. IL-7 administration led to increases of both CD4(+) and CD8(+) T-cells in peripheral blood, and importantly an expansion of T-cells expressing the gut homing integrin ?4?7. Participants who underwent rectosigmoid biopsies at study baseline and after treatment had T-cell increases in the gut mucosa measured by both flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry. IL-7 therapy also resulted in apparent improvement in gut barrier integrity as measured by decreased neutrophil infiltration in the rectosigmoid lamina propria 12 weeks after IL-7 administration. This was also accompanied by decreased TNF and increased FOXP3 expression in the lamina propria. Plasma levels of sCD14 and D-dimer, indicative of systemic inflammation, decreased after r-hIL-7. Increases of colonic mucosal T-cells correlated strongly with the decreased systemic levels of sCD14, the LPS coreceptor - a marker of monocyte activation. Furthermore, the proportion of inflammatory monocytes expressing CCR2 was decreased, as was the basal IL-1? production of peripheral blood monocytes. These data suggest that administration of r-hIL-7 improves the gut mucosal abnormalities of chronic HIV infection and attenuates the systemic inflammatory and coagulation abnormalities that have been linked to it.
During HIV/SIV infection, mucosal immune system dysfunction and systemic immune activation are associated with progression to AIDS; however, it is unclear to what extent pre-existing gastrointestinal damage relates to disease progression postinfection. Pigtail macaques (PTM) are an excellent model in which to assess mucosal dysfunction in relation to HIV/SIV pathogenesis, as the majority of these animals have high levels of gastrointestinal damage, immune activation, and microbial translocation prior to infection, and rapidly progress to AIDS upon SIV infection. In this study, we characterized the mucosal immune environment prior to and throughout SIV infection in 13 uninfected PTM and 9 SIV-infected PTM, of which 3 were slow progressors. This small subset of slow progressors had limited innate immune activation in mucosal tissues in the periphery, which was associated with a more intact colonic epithelial barrier. Furthermore, we found that preinfection levels of microbial translocation, as measured by LPS-binding protein, in PTM correlated with the rate of progression to AIDS. These data suggest that pre-existing levels of microbial translocation and gastrointestinal tract dysfunction may influence the rate of HIV disease progression.
HIV infection results in gastrointestinal (GI) tract damage, microbial translocation, and immune activation, which are not completely ameliorated with suppression of viremia by antiretroviral (ARV) therapy. Furthermore, increased morbidity and mortality of ARV-treated HIV-infected individuals is associated with these dysfunctions. Thus, to enhance GI tract physiology, we treated SIV-infected pigtail macaques with ARVs, probiotics, and prebiotics or with ARVs alone. This synbiotic treatment resulted in increased frequency and functionality of GI tract APCs, enhanced reconstitution and functionality of CD4+ T cells, and reduced fibrosis of lymphoid follicles in the colon. Thus, ARV synbiotic supplementation in HIV-infected individuals may improve GI tract immunity and thereby mitigate inflammatory sequelae, ultimately improving prognosis.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infections induce robust, generalized inflammatory responses that begin during acute infection and lead to pathological systemic immune activation, fibrotic damage of lymphoid tissues, and CD4? T-cell loss, pathogenic processes that contribute to disease progression.
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