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HIV infection in women: immunological markers and the influence of pregnancy

Brettle Ray P.; Raab, Gillian M.; Ross, Amanda; Fielding, Katherine L.; Gore, Sheila M.; Bird, A. Graham
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ObjectiveTo describe the influence of pregnancy on immunological marker paths and progression of HIV-infected women.

DesignAnalysis of prospectively collected immunological and clinical data collected on 145 women reviewed at the City Hospital, Edinburgh, between 1985 and 1992 using a two-level random-effects model that allows for within- and between-patient variance.

ResultsThere were differences between the marker paths of women according to risk activity; women who had acquired HIV via injecting drug use (in addition to heterosexual intercourse) had a higher level of absolute CD4 cells, CD4% and total lymphocytes at seroconversion than those who had acquired HIV via heterosexual intercourse alone; however, immunological markers declined more steeply after seroconversion. There was no evidence that pregnancy, either before or after HIV seroconversion had an adverse effect on marker paths of HIV disease. There was a significant association between pregnancy after HIV seroconversion and post-pregnancy changes in immunological markers: an increase in the CD4% and a decrease in CD8%. However, causality cannot be implied as pregnancy itself may be associated with considerable lifestyle changes. During pregnancy the total white blood count rose due to an increase in the number of granulocytes, whereas the total lymphocyte numbers fell. The absolute CD4 lymphocyte subset counts fell progressively but the effect was due to the fall in the total lymphocyte counts, there being no influence of pregnancy on either CD4% or CD8%.

ConclusionsIn asymptomatic HIV infection, changes in the absolute levels of CD4 and CD8 lymphocyte counts are primarily related to changes in the other components of the white cell count because there were no changes in CD4% and CD8%. Pregnancy itself has no adverse effect on immunological markers of HIV.

© Lippincott-Raven Publishers.