HCV and HIV independently lead to immune dysregulation. The mechanisms leading to advanced liver disease progression in HCV/HIV coinfected subjects remain unclear.
In this cross-sectional study, we assessed the association of HCV viremia, liver fibrosis, and immune response patterns in well-characterized HIV phenotypes: Elite controllers (Elites), HIV controlled (ARTc), and HIV uncontrolled (ARTuc) matched by age and race. Groups were stratified by HCV RNA status. Regulatory T-cell frequencies, T-cell activation (HLADR+CD38+), apoptosis (Caspase-3+), and intracellular cytokines (interferon-γ, IL-2, IL-17) were assessed using multiparametric flow-cytometry. Liver fibrosis was scored by AST to platelet ratio index (APRI).
We found liver fibrosis (APRI) was 50% lower in Elites and ARTc compared to ARTuc. Higher liver fibrosis was associated with significantly low CD4+ T cell counts (P < 0.001, coefficient r = −0.463). Immune activation varied by HIV phenotype but was not modified by HCV viremia. HCV viremia was associated with elevated CD8 T-cell Caspase-3 in Elites, ARTuc, and HIV− except ARTc. CD8 T-cell Caspase-3 levels were significantly higher in HCV RNA+ Elites (P = 0.04) and ARTuc (P = 0.001) and HIV− groups (P = 0.02) than ARTc. Importantly, ARTuc HCV RNA+ had significantly higher CD4 T-cell interleukin-17 levels than ARTuc HCV RNA− (P = 0.005).
HIV control was associated with lower liver fibrosis in HCV/HIV co-infected women. HCV viremia is associated with an inflammatory CD4 TH-17 phenotype in absence of HIV control and higher frequency of pro-apoptosis CD8 T-cells critical to avert progression of HIV and HCV disease that is attenuated in ART controllers. Elite controllers with HCV viremia are more prone to CD8 T-cell apoptosis than ART controllers, which could have negative consequences over time, highlighting the importance of ART control in HCV/HIV coinfected individuals.
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Desai, S., Dodge, J., Landay, A., Glesby, M., Latham, P. S., Villacres, M., French, A., Gange, S., Greenblatt, R., & Peters, M. (2016). Hepatic fibrosis and immune phenotype vary by HCV viremia in HCV/HIV co-infected subjects: A Women's interagency HIV study.. Medicine, 95 (33). http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000004483