Some individuals remain uninfected despite repeated exposure to HIV. This protection against HIV has been partly associated with altered T cell subset distributions and CCR5 expression levels. However, the majority of studies have been conducted in sexually exposed subjects. We aimed to assess whether HIV infection and intravenous drug use were associated with differences in CCR5 expression, immune activation on the CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and T cell distribution among Caucasian persons who inject drugs (PWIDs). Analyses of the data from 41 HIV-positive PWIDs, 47 HIV-exposed seronegative PWIDs (ESNs) and 47 age- and gender-matched HIV-negative non-drug users are presented. Of all of the study subjects, 111 (82 %) were male, and the median age was 29 years. T cell phenotyping was performed in peripheral blood mononuclear cells with multicolour flow cytometry using anti-CD3, CD4, CD8, CD45RA, CD45RO, HLA-DR and CCR5 antibodies. The ESNs exhibited greater levels of immune activation and higher percentages of CD4+ CD45RA+RO+ and CD8+ CD45RA+RO+ cells compared to the controls but not the HIV-positive people. The CCR5 expression on the CD4+ T cell subsets in the ESNs was lower than that in the controls but similar to that the HIV positives. The percentages of CCR5+ T cells were similar in all study groups and in most of the studied cell populations. Intravenous drug use was similarly associated with differences in T cell subset distributions and CCR5 expression among both the HIV-positive and HIV-negative PWIDs compared with the controls.
Keywords: HIV susceptibility; IDU; Immunological profile; Inflammation; Opiates; T cell subset.