Oral Cytokine Levels Are More Linked to Levels of Plasma and Oral HIV-1 RNA Than to CD4+ T-Cell Counts in People With HIV

Open Forum Infect Dis. 2020 Feb 13;7(3):ofaa047. doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofaa047. eCollection 2020 Mar.


Background: We determined the levels of 11 soluble immune mediators in oral washings of AIDS Clinical Trials Group A5254 participants with varying degrees of plasma viremia and CD4 T-cell counts to characterize the mucosal immune response at different stages of HIV-1 infection.

Methods: A5254 was a multicenter, cross-sectional study in people with HIV (PWH) recruited into 4 strata based on CD4 count and levels of plasma viremia: stratum (St) A: CD4 ≤200 cells/mm3, HIV-1 RNA (viral load [VL]) >1000 cps/mL; St B: CD4 ≤200, VL ≤1000; St C: CD4 >200, VL >1000; St D: CD4 >200, VL ≤1000. Oral/throat washings were obtained from all participants. Soluble markers were tested in oral/throat washings using a multibead fluorescent platform and were compared across strata. Linear regression was used to determine the associations between cytokines and HIV-1 in plasma and oral fluid.

Results: St A participants had higher levels of interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, IL-17, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), and interferon gamma (IFNγ) compared with St B and D (P = .02; P < .0001) but were not different from St C. IL-8, IL-10, and IL-12 were elevated in St A compared with the other 3 strata (P = .046; P < .0001). Linear regression demonstrated that oral HIV-1 levels were associated with IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, and TNFα production (R > .40; P < .001) when controlling for CD4 count and opportunistic infections.

Conclusions: Our results show that high levels of oral HIV-1, rather than low CD4 counts, were linked to the production of oral immune mediators. Participants with AIDS and uncontrolled viremia demonstrated higher levels of pro- and anti-inflammatory soluble immune mediators compared with participants with lower HIV-1 RNA. The interplay of HIV-1 and these immune mediators could be important in the oral health of PWH.

Keywords: HIV-1; cytokines; humans; immune response; saliva.