Inflammatory Phenotypes Predict Changes in Arterial Stiffness Following Antiretroviral Therapy Initiation

Clin Infect Dis. 2020 Dec 3;71(9):2389-2397. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa186.


Background: Inflammation drives vascular dysfunction in HIV, but in low-income settings causes of inflammation are multiple, and include infectious and environmental factors. We hypothesized that patients with advanced immunosuppression could be stratified into inflammatory phenotypes that predicted changes in vascular dysfunction on ART.

Methods: We recruited Malawian adults with CD4 <100 cells/μL 2 weeks after starting ART in the REALITY trial (NCT01825031). Carotid femoral pulse-wave velocity (cfPWV) measured arterial stiffness 2, 12, 24, and 42 weeks post-ART initiation. Plasma inflammation markers were measured by electrochemiluminescence at weeks 2 and 42. Hierarchical clustering on principal components identified inflammatory clusters.

Results: 211 participants with HIV grouped into 3 inflammatory clusters representing 51 (24%; cluster-1), 153 (73%; cluster-2), and 7 (3%; cluster-3) individuals. Cluster-1 showed markedly higher CD4 and CD8 T-cell expression of HLADR and PD-1 versus cluster-2 and cluster-3 (all P < .0001). Although small, cluster-3 had significantly higher levels of cytokines reflecting inflammation (IL-6, IFN-γ, IP-10, IL-1RA, IL-10), chemotaxis (IL-8), systemic and vascular inflammation (CRP, ICAM-1, VCAM-1), and SAA (all P < .001). In mixed-effects models, cfPWV changes over time were similar for cluster-2 versus cluster-1 (relative fold-change, 0.99; 95% CI, .86-1.14; P = .91), but greater in cluster-3 versus cluster-1 (relative fold-change, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.01-2.09; P = .045).

Conclusions: Two inflammatory clusters were identified: one defined by high T-cell PD-1 expression and another by a hyperinflamed profile and increases in cfPWV on ART. Further clinical characterization of inflammatory phenotypes could help target vascular dysfunction interventions to those at highest risk.

Clinical trials network: NCT01825031.

Keywords: arterial stiffness; inflammatory phenotype; ub-Saharan Africa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Vascular Stiffness*


  • Biomarkers

Associated data