Objectives: HIV-1/hepatitis C virus (HCV) coinfection accelerates the progression of liver disease to cirrhosis, particularly in individuals with low CD4+ T-cell counts. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) can significantly increase HCV-specific T-cell responses; however, it remains unclear whether the restoration of HCV-specific T cells by HAART is associated with liver injury in these coinfection patients.
Methods: A total of 32 HIV-1/HCV coinfected patients and 14 HCV monoinfected patients were enrolled, and 13 coinfected patients were initialized HAART and followed up for 6 months. HCV-specific interferon-γ responses to HCV core and NS3A proteins were examined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot.
Results: HCV-specific interferon-γ responses to HCV core and NS3A proteins were impaired in HIV-1/HCV-coinfected patients as compared with those in HCV monoinfected patients. The impaired HCV-specific T-cell responses could be efficiently restored during the early phase of HAART, independent of HCV status, and were positively associated with increased CD4 T-cell counts. In addition, this recovery of HCV-specific T-cell responses occurred simultaneously with elevated serum alanine aminotransferase levels in HCV viremic patients and in patients with HCV rebound, but not in HCV nonviremic patients after 6 months of HAART.
Conclusions: The recovery of HCV-specific T-cell responses by HAART may lead to transient liver injury in patients with HIV-1/HCV coinfection, suggesting that early anti-HCV therapy before HAART may reduce the risk of liver injury and therefore may be beneficial to HIV-1/HCV-coinfected patients.