PloS one

Elevated plasma soluble CD14 and skewed CD16+ monocyte distribution persist despite normalisation of soluble CD163 and CXCL10 by effective HIV therapy: a changing paradigm for routine HIV laboratory monitoring?

PMID 25544986


We investigated plasma and flow cytometric biomarkers of monocyte status that have been associated with prognostic utility in HIV infection and other chronic inflammatory diseases, comparing 81 HIV+ individuals with a range of treatment outcomes to a group of 21 healthy control blood donors. Our aim is to develop and optimise monocyte assays that combine biological relevance, clinical utility, and ease of adoption into routine HIV laboratory practice. Cross-sectional evaluation of concurrent plasma and whole blood samples. A flow cytometry protocol was developed comprising single-tube CD45, CD14, CD16, CD64, CD163, CD143 analysis with appropriately matched isotype controls. Plasma levels of soluble CD14 (sCD14), soluble CD163 (sCD163) and CXCL10 were measured by ELISA. HIV status was associated with significantly increased expression of CD64, CD143 and CD163 on CD16+ monocytes, irrespective of the virological response to HIV therapy. Plasma levels of sCD14, sCD163 and CXCL10 were also significantly elevated in association with viremic HIV infection. Plasma sCD163 and CXCL10 levels were restored to healthy control levels by effective antiretroviral therapy while sCD14 levels remained elevated despite virological suppression (p<0.001). Flow cytometric and plasma biomarkers of monocyte activation indicate an ongoing systemic inflammatory response to HIV infection, characterised by persistent alterations of CD16+ monocyte expression profiles and elevated sCD14 levels, that are not corrected by antiretroviral therapy and likely to be prognostically significant. In contrast, sCD163 and CXCL10 levels declined on antiretroviral therapy, suggesting multiple activation pathways revealed by these biomarkers. Incorporation of these assays into routine clinical care is feasible and warrants further consideration, particularly in light of emerging therapeutic strategies that specifically target innate immune activation in HIV infection.