Background: Persistent inflammation and immune activation has been hypothesized to contribute to increased prevalence of subclinical atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in patients with chronic HIV infection. In this study, we examined the correlation of peripheral monocyte subsets and soluble biomarkers of inflammation to coronary artery calcium (CAC) progression, as measured by cardiac computed tomography scan.
Methods: We conducted a longitudinal analysis utilizing baseline data of 78 participants with HIV infection on stable antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the Hawaii Aging with HIV-Cardiovascular study who had available baseline monocyte subset analysis as well as CAC measurement at baseline and at 2-year follow up. Monocyte phenotypes were assessed from cryopreserved blood by flow cytometry and plasma was assayed for soluble biomarkers using antibody-coated beads in a high sensitivity Milliplex Luminex platform. Change in CAC over 2 years was analyzed as the primary outcome variable.
Results: Of all monocyte subsets and biomarkers tested, higher non-classical monocyte percentage (ρ = 0.259, p = 0.022), interleukin (IL)-6 (ρ = 0.311, p = 0.012), and monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP)-1 (ρ = 0.524, p = <0.001) were significantly correlated to higher 2-year CAC progression in unadjusted Spearman's correlation. Non-classical monocyte percentage (ρ = 0.247, p = 0.039), and MCP-1 (ρ = 0.487, p = <0.001), remained significantly correlated to 2-year CAC progression, while IL-6 was not (ρ = 0.209, p = 0.120) after adjustment for age, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, total/HDL cholesterol ratio, smoking history, and BMI.
Conclusion: The percentage of non-classical monocytes and plasma MCP-1 levels were independently associated with CAC progression and may be related to the progression of atherosclerosis and increased CVD risk associated with chronic HIV infection on stable ART.