Influence of highly active antiretroviral therapy on the development of CMV disease in HIV positive patients at high risk for CMV disease

F.D. Verbraak, R. Boom, P.M.E. Wertheim-van Dillen, G.J. van den Horn, A. Kijlstra, M.D. de Smet

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    Background/aims. In the pre-HAART era, HIV positive patients with CD4+ cell counts below 50 cells x 106/l, and those with detectable cytomegalovirus (CMV) DNA in their peripheral blood, were considered to be at high risk for the development of CMV disease. With the start of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), a restoration of immune function occurred in these patients, and as a consequence patients became less vulnerable to CMV disease. Since it is not exactly known how HAART influences CMV viral load in peripheral blood and the incidence of CMV disease in high risk HIV positive patients a group of patients was followed before and after initiation of HAART. Methods. 29 HIV positive patients, seen in the first 3 months of 1996 at the AIDS clinic of the Academic Medical Centre, at high risk for development of CMV disease (positive CMV DNA assay in blood and/or CD4+ cell count below 50 cells x 106/l), not receiving anti-CMV maintenance therapy, were included in a prospective cohort study. HAART was started in the second trimester of 1996. Patients were evaluated for the occurrence of CMV retinitis, or CMV disease elsewhere, comparing the incidence of CMV events before and after the start of HAART. Following the introduction of HAART, CD4+ cell counts and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for CMV DNA in blood were monitored in all patients who remained alive and were not receiving anti-CMV maintenance therapy (n = 22). Follow up was performed until August 1998; the mean follow up after the start of HAART was 14.9 months (range 8-22 months). Results. In the pre-HAART period four patients developed CMV disease, and four died (without clinically manifest CMV disease). After the start of HAART no patient developed CMV disease or died. With HAART, the mean CD4+ cell counts increased from 34 cells x 106/l to 194 cells x 106/l at the end of follow up. CMV DNA could be detected in the blood of 11 patients. Quantification showed a decline in the amount of detectable DNA during follow up. At the last examination only one patient showed a positive PCR assay. This was the only patient with a CD4+ cell count remaining below 100 cells x106/l. Conclusion. In HIV positive patients at high risk of CMV retinitis, either with a positive CMV PCR assay in blood and/or with CD4+ cell counts below 50 cell x 106/l, HAART causes a dramatic decrease in the occurrence of CMV disease. This decrease is paralleled by an increase in CD4+ cell count, and a decrease in the amount of CMV DNA in the blood, which was below detection levels in all patients with CD4+ cell counts above 100 cells x 106/l.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1186-1189
    JournalBritish Journal of Ophthalmology
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 1999

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