Background: Chronic inflammation and immune dysfunction occur in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infection despite stable antiretroviral therapy (ART). Red blood cell distribution width (RDW) has been shown to correlate with markers of inflammation in non-HIV conditions. The study objective was to determine associations between RDW with cellular markers of immune activation and immune dysfunction including soluble inflammatory mediators in ART treated HIV infection.
Methods: We performed a cross-sectional analysis of the Hawaii Aging with HIV-Cardiovascular study. RDW was defined as one standard deviation of RBC size divided by mean corpuscular volume multiplied by 100%. Correlations were analyzed between RDW, soluble inflammatory biomarkers and T cell activation (CD38 + HLA-DR+), senescence (CD28-CD57+), and immune exhaustion (PD-1, TIGIT, TIM-3 expression).
Results: Of 158 participants analyzed, median age was 50 years, duration of ART 12.6 years, virally suppressed 84.4%, and CD4 count 503 cells/mm3. Significant positive correlations were identified between RDW and soluble biomarkers including sICAM, IL-8, IL-6, SAA, TNF-α, sE-selection, fibrinogen, D-dimer, CRP, CD4/CD8 ratio, and frequency of multiple CD8 T-cell populations such as CD38 + HLA-DR + T-cells, single TIGIT+, and dual expressing of TIGIT + PD1+, TIGIT + TIM3+, and TIM3 + PD1+ CD8+ T-cell subsets (p < .05). Frequencies of CD38 + HLA-DR + CD8+ T-cells and TIGIT + CD8+ T-cells remained significant adjusting for baseline variables (p < .01).
Conclusion: Our study revealed correlations between RDW with systemic inflammatory biomarkers and CD8+ T-cell populations related to immune activation and exhaustion in HIV-infected individuals on ART. Further studies are warranted to determine the utility of RDW as a marker of immune dysregulation in HIV.
Keywords: T cell dysregulation; human immunodeficiency virus; immune activation and exhaustion; immune checkpoint; inflammatory biomarker; red blood cell distribution width.