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Early anti-retroviral treatment (ART) in primary human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection (PHI) may have unique, restorative immunological and virological benefits which could enhance clinical outcomes. However, the sustainability of these HIV-specific immune responses and their impact on clinical outcome remains unclear. We present a 3-year longitudinal clinical and immunological follow-up of a single-arm, prospective study assessing the long-term impact of a short-course of ART (SCART) during PHI. Twenty-eight subjects with defined PHI received 3 months of SCART at HIV-1 seroconversion. HIV-specific interferon-gamma+ CD4+ T cell responses, CD4 cell counts and plasma viral loads were assessed prospectively. Clinical outcome was defined as the time taken from PHI to a fall in CD4 cell counts <350 cells/mul on two or more occasions. Of 28 patients, 25 (89%) had detectable HIV-specific CD4+ helper responses at baseline. Five of 11 (45%) patients had preserved HIV-specific CD4+ responses 3 years after stopping SCART. Neither the presence nor magnitude of HIV-1-specific T helper responses either at baseline or 3 years following SCART cessation predicted clinical outcome. Rebound viraemia associated with stopping SCART did not diminish HIV-1-specific CD4+ responses. Long-term (>3 years) preservation of virus-specific CD4+ cells occurred in 45% of patients receiving SCART in PHI. There was no correlation between either the presence or magnitude of these responses and clinical outcome.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Exp Immunol

Publication Date





532 - 537


Adult, Anti-HIV Agents, CD4 Lymphocyte Count, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Drug Administration Schedule, Follow-Up Studies, HIV Infections, HIV-1, Humans, Immunity, Cellular, Male, Prospective Studies, T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer, Treatment Outcome, Viral Load