Open Access Open Badges Research article

Long-term mortality in HIV patients virally suppressed for more than three years with incomplete CD4 recovery: A cohort study

Frederik N Engsig1*, Jan Gerstoft1, Gitte Kronborg2, Carsten S Larsen3, Gitte Pedersen4, Birgit Røge5, Janne Jensen6, Lars N Nielsen7 and Niels Obel1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Infectious Diseases, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Blegdamsvej 9, 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark

2 Department of Infectious Diseases, Copenhagen University Hospital, Hvidovre Hospital, Kettegårds Allé 30, 2650 Hvidovre, Denmark

3 Department of Infectious Diseases, Aarhus University Hospital, Skejby Sygehus, Brendstrupgårdsvej, DK8200 Aarhus N, Denmark

4 Department of Infectious Diseases, Aalborg University Hospital, 9000 Aalborg, Denmark

5 Department of Infectious Diseases, Odense University Hospital, Sønderbouldevard 65, 5000 Odense C, Denmark

6 Department of Infectious Diseases, Fredericia and Kolding Sygehus, Skovvangen 2-8, 6000 Kolding, Denmark

7 Department of Infectious Diseases - Hillerød, Hillerød Sygehus, Dyrehavevej 29, Hillerød 3400, Denmark

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:318  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-318

Published: 2 November 2010



The mortality in patients with persistent low CD4 count despite several years of HAART with sustained viral suppression is poorly documented. We aimed to identify predictors for inadequate CD4 cell recovery and estimate mortality in patients with low CD4 count but otherwise successful HAART.


In a nationwide cohort of HIV patients we identified all individuals who started HAART before 1 January 2005 with CD4 cell count ≤ 200 cells/μL and experienced three years with sustained viral suppression. Patients were categorized according to CD4 cell count after the three years suppressed period (≤ 200 cells/μL; immunological non-responders (INRs), >200 cells/μL; immunological responders (IRs)). We used logistic regression and Kaplan-Meier analysis to estimated risk factors and mortality for INRs compared to IRs.


We identified 55 INRs and 236 IRs. In adjusted analysis age > 40 years and > one year from first CD4 cell count ≤ 200 cells/μL to start of the virologically suppressed period were associated with increased risk of INR. INRs had substantially higher mortality compared to IRs. The excess mortality was mainly seen in the INR group with > one year of immunological suppression prior to viral suppression and injection drug users (IDUs).


Age and prolonged periods of immune deficiency prior to successful HAART are risk factors for incomplete CD4 cell recovery. INRs have substantially increased long-term mortality mainly associated with prolonged immunological suppression prior to viral suppression and IDU.