Purpose: In order to evaluate the relationship between cachectin/tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and cachexia in the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), we studied the serum levels of endogenous cachectin/TNF in subjects with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.
Patients and methods: Fifty-three serum samples were obtained from 39 HIV-seropositive patients. The condition of each patient was clinically classified as either asymptomatic, lymphadenopathy syndrome (LAS), AIDS-related complex (ARC), or AIDS. Control sera were obtained from 29 healthy male blood donors. A double antibody radioimmunoassay was used to measure the serum levels of cachectin/TNF.
Results: Cachectin/TNF levels were within the reference range of the control values in all (eight of eight) asymptomatic HIV-infected subjects and in 11 of 13 of the patients with LAS. In contrast, all patients with AIDS (nine of nine) and five of nine of the patients with ARC had raised levels of cachectin/TNF. Fluctuation of the levels of cachectin/TNF occurred during follow-up, but initially raised levels remained elevated.
Conclusion: Since cachectin/TNF suppresses lipoprotein lipase in adipocytes in vitro, and causes weight loss under experimental conditions, the findings of raised levels of cachectin/TNF in patients with AIDS may have relevance to the pathogenesis of cachexia.