HIV infection leads to CD4 lymphopenia and immunosuppression, which can be successfully improved with antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the majority of cases. Approximately 20 percent of HIV patients initiated on ART may develop an aberrant immune response known as immune reconstitution syndrome (IRIS). IRIS encompasses the paradoxical worsening of the manifestations of underlying opportunistic diseases (paradoxical IRIS) or the abrupt presentation of previously occult opportunistic disease (unmasking IRIS) in patients who recently started ART. Symptoms of IRIS can range from uncomplicated localized reactions to severe and systemic manifestations and, more rarely, autoimmune manifestations. Clinical studies have identified two main risk factors for IRIS: severe CD4 lymphopenia and the presence of opportunistic infections even if clinically silent (M. tuberculosis, M. avium complex, C. neoformans or other fungi, or viral pathogens) prior to ART initiation. The pathogenesis of IRIS in HIV infection remains unclear and there is no animal model that adequately mimics the clinical observations. In order to study the clinical predictors, biomarkers and pathogenesis of IRIS we are thus conducting a large prospective observational clinical trial of ART-naive HIV+ patients with severe CD4 lymphopenia (<100 cells/L) who are followed prospectively after initiation of ART to study. In collaboration with Dr Sher's and Dr Barber's laboratories in LPD we have also developed a murine model of mycobacterial IRIS that has highlighted the prominent role of Th1 responses in IRIS pathogenesis. In a previous study we evaluated the phenotype of T cells at baseline (pre-ART) and around the IRIS events. T cells from IRIS patients bore a highly activated phenotype (effector cells with high PD-1 expression) both pre-ART and at the time of IRIS, showing evidence of profound antigenic stimulation. IRIS patients also had a slower recovery of naive CD4 T cells following the IRIS events. These findings suggest a significant antigenic drive of T cell activation and expansion that becomes dysregulated as severe immunosuppression reverses. In continuation of that work we showed that the activated CD4 T cells predominantly recognize the underlying opportunistic pathogen and mount polyfunctional cytokine responses while the T cell responses to other pathogens, including HIV itself, remain intact. In a study of patients with HIV and chronic hepatitis co-infection with IRIS after ART initiation manifesting as a hepatitis flare, we showed evidence of a role of the antigenic load in IRIS pathogenesis as levels of hepatitis B viremia pre-ART and IL-10 levels were independent predictors of a hepatitis flare. Finally, in a different (autoimmune) form of IRIS that involves the thyroid and happens later after ART initiation, Grave's disease, we showed recently that recovery of naive CD4 T cells correlates with the appearance of anti-thyroid antibodies suggesting a very different pathogenesis than the infection-associated IRIS. Earlier findings from a pilot human study of HIV+ patients who were ART-naive and developed IRIS and comparing them with HIV+ patients who did not develop IRIS despite having similar opportunistic infections, suggest that two easily accessible tests from clinical laboratories (CRP and D-dimer) may be useful to predict or diagnose IRIS. This was further confirmed in a nested case-control study of a large clinical trial and has now been validated in a paradoxical tuberculosis (TB)-IRIS prospective study we performed with collaborators in Chennai, India. In a collaboration with the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG), we also found that levels of both Th1 (IFNgamma, TNF) and Th17 (IL-17) cytokines were elevated at baseline as well as IL-8, implying a possible role of neutrophils and myeloid cells that will now be further investigated. These studies will inform potential strategies for prevention or treatment of IRIS. Despite the significant improvement of morbidity and mortality in HIV infection in the ART era, mortality in HIV+ patients is still in excess of what is expected based on age and strongly relates to the degree of immunodeficieny as measured by CD4 T cell counts and to the degree of residual inflammation measured by IL-6, CRP, sCD14 and D-dimer. Immune-based therapies and anti-inflammatory therapies are thus still being pursued with the objective to improve immune restoration and function in CD4 lymphopenic states. To that end we have evaluated IL-7, a cytokine that plays an essential role in thymopoiesis and in post-thymic maturation, differentiation, proliferation and survival of T cells in HIV infection and in ICL. Newer strategies for decreasing residual inflammation in IRIS and in chronically treated patients will be pursued.

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Wilson, Eleanor M P; Singh, Amrit; Hullsiek, Katherine Huppler et al. (2014) Monocyte-activation phenotypes are associated with biomarkers of inflammation and coagulation in chronic HIV infection. J Infect Dis 210:1396-406
Baker, Jason V; Hullsiek, Katherine Huppler; Singh, Amrit et al. (2014) Immunologic predictors of coronary artery calcium progression in a contemporary HIV cohort. AIDS 28:831-40
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Faldetta, Kimberly F; Kattakuzhy, Sarah; Wang, Hao-Wei et al. (2014) Cytomegalovirus immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome manifesting as acute appendicitis in an HIV-infected patient. BMC Infect Dis 14:313
Sandler, Netanya G; Sereti, Irini (2014) Can early therapy reduce inflammation? Curr Opin HIV AIDS 9:72-9

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