Background: Activation of the immune system is a normal response to antigenic stimulation, and such activation enhances the replication of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). We studied the effect of immunization with a common recall antigen on viral expression in HIV-1-infected patients, on the ability to isolate virus, and on the susceptibility to HIV-1 infection of peripheral-blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from control subjects not infected with HIV-1.
Methods: Thirteen HIV-1-infected patients and 10 uninfected adults were given a 0.5-ml booster dose of tetanus toxoid. Studies were performed to evaluate changes in the degree of plasma viremia, proviral burden, the ability to isolate HIV-1, and the susceptibility of PBMCs to acute infection in vitro. Two patients underwent sequential lymph-node biopsies for the assessment of viral burden in these tissues.
Results: All 13 HIV-1-infected patients had transient increase in plasma viremia after immunization, and the proviral burden increased in 11. These changes did not correlate with the base-line CD4+ T-cell counts. The lymph-node tissue also had increases in the proviral burden and viral RNA after immunization. The virus was more easily isolated from PBMCs from nine of the patients after immunization than before immunization. Despite considerable variability in the results, PBMCs from 7 of the 10 normal subjects were more easily infected in vitro with HIV-1 after immunization than before immunization.
Conclusions: Activation of the immune system by an ongoing antigen-specific immune response to an exogenous stimulus transiently increases the expression of HIV-1 and may enhance the susceptibility of uninfected subjects to HIV-1.