Little is known about the factors that govern the level of HIV-1 replication in infected individuals. Recent studies (using potent antiviral drugs) of the kinetics of HIV-1 replication in vivo have demonstrated that steady-state levels of viremia are sustained by continuous rounds of de novo infection and the associated rapid turnover of CD4+ T lymphocytes. However, no information is available concerning the biologic variables that determine the size of the pool of T cells that are susceptible to virus infection or the amount of virus produced from infected cells. Furthermore, it is not known whether all CD4+ T lymphocytes are equally susceptible to HIV-1 infection at a given time or whether the infection is focused on cells of a particular state of activation or antigenic specificity. Although HIV-1 replication in culture is known to be greatly facilitated by T cell activation, the ability of specific antigenic stimulation to augment HIV-1 replication in vivo has not been studied. We sought to determine whether vaccination of HIV-1-infected adults leads to activation of virus replication and the targeting of vaccine antigen-responsive T cells for virus infection and destruction. Should T cell activation resulting from exposure to environmental antigens prove to be an important determinant of the steady-state levels of HIV-1 replication in vivo and lead to the preferential loss of specific populations of CD4+ T lymphocytes, it would have significant implications for our understanding of and therapeutic strategies for HIV-1 disease. To begin to address these issues, HIV-1-infected individuals and uninfected controls were studied by measurement of immune responses to influenza antigens and quantitation of virion-associated plasma HIV-1 RNA levels at baseline and at intervals after immunization with the trivalent influenza vaccine. Influenza vaccination resulted in readily demonstrable but transient increases in plasma HIV-1 RNA levels, indicative of activation of viral replication, in HIV-1-infected individuals with preserved ability to immunologically respond to vaccine antigens. Activation of HIV-1 replication by vaccination was more often seen and of greater magnitude in individuals who displayed a T cell proliferative response to vaccine antigens at baseline and in those who mounted a significant serologic response after vaccination. The fold increase in viremia, as well as the rates of increase of HIV-1 in plasma after vaccination and rates of viral decline after peak viremia, were higher in individuals with higher CD4+ T cell counts.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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