Background: A subset of HIV-infected patients, termed 'elite' viral controllers, maintain undetectable plasma HIV RNA levels in the absence of therapy. In this group, host-mediated viral control may be accompanied by chronic systemic inflammation. It is unknown whether either infection or chronic inflammation is present within the central nervous system of these individuals.
Methods: Cross-sectional analysis compared cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) HIV RNA and biomarkers of intrathecal inflammation in eight controllers (plasma HIV RNA levels <50 copies/ml) with 26 HIV-uninfected individuals, 25 untreated individuals HIV-infected, viremic individuals, and 23 HIV-infected individuals with treatment-mediated viral suppression (plasma HIV RNA levels <50 copies/ml).
Results: All controllers had CSF HIV RNA levels below 2.5 copies/ml. CSF white blood cell (WBC) counts and CSF: plasma albumin ratios in the controllers were similar to those in both HIV-uninfected individuals and antiretroviral therapy-suppressed HIV-infected individuals. CSF neopterin, MCP-1, and IP-10 concentrations were also not different in the controllers from either HIV-uninfected or treated HIV-infected individuals.
Conclusion: The character of CSF HIV infection and degree of immunoactivation in controllers is comparable to that of HIV-uninfected and antiretroviral therapy-suppressed HIV-infected individuals, but distinct from that of untreated, viremic HIV-infected individuals.