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Research Article

The Presence of CXCR4-Using HIV-1 Prior to Start of Antiretroviral Therapy Is an Independent Predictor of Delayed Viral Suppression


The emergence of CXCR4-using HIV variants (X4-HIV) is associated with accelerated disease progression in the absence of antiretroviral therapy. However, the effect of X4-HIV variants on the treatment response remains unclear. Here we determined whether the presence of X4-HIV variants influenced the time to undetectable viral load and CD4+ T cell reconstitution after initiation of cART in 732 patients. The presence of X4-HIV variants was determined by MT-2 assay prior to cART initiation and viral load and CD4+ T cell counts were analyzed every 3 to 6 months during a three year follow-up period. Kaplan-Meier and Cox proportional hazard analyses were performed to compare time to viral suppression and the absolute CD4+ T cell counts and increases in CD4+ T cell counts during follow-up were compared for patients with and without X4-HIV at start of cART. Patients harboring X4-HIV variants at baseline showed a delay in time to achieve viral suppression below the viral load detection limit. This delay in viral suppression was independently associated with high viral load and the presence of X4-HIV variants. Furthermore, the absolute CD4+ T cell counts were significantly lower in patients harboring X4-HIV variants at all time points during follow-up. However, no differences were observed in the increase in absolute CD4+ T cell numbers after treatment initiation, indicating that the reconstitution of CD4+ T cells is independent of the presence of X4-HIV variants. The emergence of X4-HIV has been associated with an accelerated CD4+ T cell decline during the natural course of infection and therefore, patients who develop X4-HIV variants may benefit from earlier treatment initiation in order to obtain faster reconstitution of the CD4+ T cell population to normal levels.