Effective antiretroviral therapy (ART) suppresses the blood HIV RNA viral load (VL) below the level of detection. However, some individuals intermittently shed HIV RNA in semen despite suppression of viremia, a phenomenon termed "isolated HIV semen shedding (IHS)". In a previously reported clinical study, we collected blood and semen samples from HIV-infected men for 6 months after ART initiation, and documented IHS at ≥ 1 visit in almost half of the participants, independent of ART regimen or semen drug levels. We now report the mucosal immune associations of IHS in these men. Blood and semen plasma cytokine levels were assayed by multiplex enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, T-cell populations were evaluated by flow cytometry in freshly isolated blood and semen mononuclear cells, and semen cytomegalovirus (CMV) DNA levels were measured by PCR. Although IHS was not associated with altered blood or semen cytokine levels, the phenomenon was associated with a transient, dramatic increase in CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell activation that was restricted to the semen compartment. All participants were CMV infected, and although semen CMV reactivation was common despite ART, this was not associated with T-cell activation or IHS. Further elucidation of the causes of compartmentalized mucosal T-cell activation and IHS may have important public health implications.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy