Analysis of type I IFN response and T cell activation in severe COVID-19/HIV-1 coinfection: A case report

Medicine (Baltimore). 2020 Sep 4;99(36):e21803. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000021803.


Rationale: Complex immune dysregulation in interferon (IFN) and T cell response has been observed in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1)-infected patients as well as in coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) patients. However, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2)/HIV-1 coinfection has been described in only few cases worldwide and no data are available on immunological outcomes in HIV-1-patients infected with SARS-CoV-2. Hence, this study aims to compare type I IFN response and T cell activation levels between a SARS-CoV-2/HIV-1-coinfected female patient and age-matched HIV-1-positive or uninfected women.

Patient concerns: A 52-year-old woman diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2/HIV-1 coinfection, ten HIV-1-positive women and five age-matched-healthy individuals were enrolled in this study.

Diagnoses: SARS-CoV-2 infection caused severe pneumonia in the second week of illness in HIV-1-positive patient under protease inhibitors. Chest high-resolution computed tomography images of the SARS-CoV-2/HIV-1-coinfected patient showed bilateral ground-glass opacities.

Interventions: SARS-CoV-2/HIV-1-coinfected female patient under darunavir/cobicistat regimen received a 7-days hydroxychloroquine therapy. Analysis of IFNα/β mRNA levels and CD4 and CD8 T cell (CD38, human leukocyte antigen-DR [HLA-DR], CD38 HLA-DR) frequencies were performed by RT/real-time PCR assays and flow cytometry, respectively. Median relative difference (MRD) was calculated for each immunological variable. For values greater than reference, MRD should be a positive number and for values that are smaller, MRD should be negative.

Outcomes: The severe pneumonia observed in SARS-CoV-2/HIV-1-positive patient under protease inhibitors was reversed by a 7-days hydroxychloroquine therapy. At the end of treatment, on day 7, patient reported resolution of fever, normalization of respiratory rate (14 breaths/min), and improved oxygen arterial pressure with a FiO2 of 30%. MRD values for IFNα/β and CD4 and CD8 T cells expressing CD38 and/or HLA-DR found in SARS-CoV-2-/HIV-1-coinfected woman were approximatively equal to 0 when refereed respectively to HIV-1-positive female patients [MRDs IFNα/β: median -0.2545 (range: -0.5/0.1); T cells: median -0.11 (range: -0.8/1.3)] and ≥ 6 when referred to healthy individuals [MRDs IFNα/β: median 28.45 (range: 15/41.9); T cells: median 10 (range 6/22)].

Lessons: These results indicate that SARS-CoV-2 infection in HIV-1-positive female patient was associated with increased levels of IFNα/β-mRNAs and T cell activation compared to healthy individuals.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Betacoronavirus
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • COVID-19
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications*
  • Coronavirus Infections / drug therapy
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Hydroxychloroquine / therapeutic use
  • Interferons / blood
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / drug therapy
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / complications*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / virology


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Interferons