Cross-sectional analysis on 20 HIV-1 patients with neurological symptoms admitted to two infectious disease units. Cut-off of HIV-RNA (VL) was 20 copies/ml for plasma and cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). Flow cytometry was used to analyze the phenotype of circulating and CSF T lymphocytes. CD38 mean fluorescence intensity (MFI) was higher on circulating CD4(+)T lymphocytes from patients with VL >20 copies/ml in plasma (P = 0.001) or CSF (P = 0.001). The frequency of circulating CD8(+)CD38(+)T cells and CD38 MFI on these cells were higher in patients with VL >20 copies/ml than in those with undetectable plasma VL (P = 0.030 and P = 0.023). The frequency of CSF CD4(+)CD38(+)T, as well as their CD38 and CD95 MFI, were increased in patients with detectable than non-detectable plasma VL (P = 0.01, P = 0.03, and P = 0.05). The % CD38(+)CD8(+)T in CSF correlated with time of virological suppression (ρ = - 0.462, P = 0.040) and the CNS penetration-effectiveness (CPE) score (ρ = - 0.467, P = 0.038). In conclusion, (a) the expression of CD38(+) on both CD4(+), CD8(+)T lymphocytes from peripheral blood and CSF discriminated between viremic and non-viremic patients and (b) T cell activation/apoptosis markers inversely correlated with CPE to remark the importance for therapy to restore immunological functions.
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