Approximately 5-10% of individuals with documented HIV-1 infection fail to experience CD4 T cell depletion, immunosuppression, and opportunistic infections after a decade of diagnosis. These individuals, designated long-term non-progressors (LTNP), are a heterogeneous group in which various genetic, immune and viral factors may delineate long-term prognosis. By recognizing the relative contribution of each of these factors to the LTNP phenotype, we can derive insight into the pathogenic mechanisms of HIV-1 disease and the protective mechanisms that prevent progression. Thus, we are conducting longitudinal, observational studies to examine immune responses in a cohort of LTNP. The goal of these studies is primarily to determine the role of virus-specific cytotoxic T cell lymphocyte (CTL) activity versus CCR5 expression on viral load, the role of T helper responses in sustaining CTL responses, the patterns of epitope recognition associated with alterations in viral load, and the viral load in mucosal compartments in comparison to peripheral blood. By understanding these mechanisms in LTNP, we can apply this knowledge to designing preventative measures against HIV-1 disease and progression.
Fast facts about the LTNP cohort: