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Open Access Research Article

HIV and intestinal parasite co-infections among a Chinese population: an immunological profile

Li-Guang Tian1, Tian-Ping Wang2, Shan Lv1, Feng-Feng Wang2, Jian Guo1, Xiao-Mei Yin2, Yu-Chun Cai1, Mary Kathryn Dickey3, Peter Steinmann45 and Jia-Xu Chen1*

Author Affiliations

1 National Institute of Parasitic Diseases, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC); WHO Collaborating Centre for Malaria, Schistosomiasis and Filariasis; Key Laboratory of Parasite and Vector Biology, Ministry of Health, Shanghai 200025, People’s Republic of China

2 Anhui Institute of Parasitic Disease Control, Hefei 241000, People’s Republic of China

3 University of Oklahoma, Midwest 73110, OK USA

4 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel 4051, Switzerland

5 University of Basel, Basel 4051, Switzerland

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Infectious Diseases of Poverty 2013, 2:18  doi:10.1186/2049-9957-2-18

Published: 23 August 2013

Abstract

Background

Parasite infections often result in a switch of the human body’s predominant immune reaction from T-helper 1 (Th1)-type to Th2-type. Hence, parasite infections are widely expected to accelerate the progression of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). In the People’s Republic of China, both parasitic diseases and AIDS are epidemic in certain rural areas, and co-infections are relatively common. However, no population-based studies have yet investigated the frequency of HIV and parasite co-infections, and its effects on immune responses. We studied (1) the immune status of an HIV-infected population, and (2) the effect of co-infection of HIV and intestinal parasites on selected parameters of the human immune system.

Methods

A total of 309 HIV-infected individuals were recruited and compared to an age-matched and sex-matched control group of 315 local HIV-negative individuals. Questionnaires were administered to all participants to obtain information on sociodemographic characteristics, sanitation habits, family income, and recent clinical manifestations. Two consecutive stool samples and 10 ml samples of venous blood were also collected from each individual for the diagnosis of parasite infections and quantitative measurements of selected cytokines and CD4+ T-lymphocytes, respectively.

Results

During the study period, 79 HIV-infected individuals were not under highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and were thus included in our analysis; the prevalence of intestinal helminth infections was 6.3% and that of protozoa was 22.8%. The most common protozoan infections were Blastocystis hominis (B. hominis) (13.9%) and Cryptosporidium spp. (10.1%). The prevalence of Cryptosporidium spp. in HIV-infected individuals was significantly higher than that in HIV negative individuals (P < 0.05). Compared to the non-co-infected population, no significant difference was found for any of the measured immunological indicators (P > 0.05). However, the following trends were observed: IFN-γ levels were lower, but the IL-4 level was higher, in the population co-infected with HIV and helminths. In the population co-infected with HIV and B. hominis, the IL-2 level was higher. The population co-infected with HIV and Cryptosporidium spp. had markedly lower CD4+ T-lymphocyte counts.

Conclusion

According to the immunologic profile, co-infection with helminths is disadvantageous to HIV-infected individuals. It was associated with a shift in the Th1/Th2 balance in the same direction as that caused by the virus itself, which might indicate an acceleration of the progress from an HIV infection to AIDS. Co-infection with Cryptosporidium spp. was not associated with a significant change in immune factors but co-infection with Cryptosporidium spp. was associated with a reduced level of CD4 + T-lymphocytes, confirming the opportunistic nature of such infections. Co-infection with B. hominis, on the other hand, was associated with an antagonistic shift in the immunological profile compared to an HIV infection.

Keywords:
HIV; Intestinal parasite; Co-infection; Immunological profile; People’s Republic of China