CD8+ T-cell interleukin-7 receptor alpha expression as a potential indicator of disease status in HIV-infected children

BACKGROUND: Initiation and modification of antiretroviral therapy in HIV-infected children depend on viral load and CD4+ T-cell count. However, these surrogates have limitations, and complementary immunological markers to assess therapeutic response are needed. Our aim was to evaluate CD8+ T-cell expression of CD127 as a marker of disease status in HIV-infected children, based on adult data suggesting its usefulness. We hypothesized that CD127 expression on CD8+ T-cells is lower in children with more advanced disease. METHODS: In a cross-sectional evaluation, we used flow cytometry to measure CD127+ expression on CD8+ T-cells in whole blood from HIV-infected children with varying disease status. This was compared with expression of CD38 on this subset, currently used in clinical practice as a marker of disease status. RESULTS: 51 HIV-infected children were enrolled. There was a strong positive correlation between CD127 expression on CD8+ T-cells and CD4+ T-cell count, and height and weight z-scores, and a strong negative correlation between CD127 expression and viral load. In contrast, we found no association between CD38 expression and these disease status markers. CONCLUSIONS: CD8+ T-cell CD127 expression is significantly higher in children with better HIV disease control, and may have a role as an immunologic indicator of disease status. Longitudinal studies are needed to determine the utility of this marker as a potential indicator of HIV disease progression.