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Factors associated with paradoxical immune response to antiretroviral therapy in HIV infected patients: a case control study

Janaina AS Casotti1, Luciana N Passos1, Fabiano JP Oliveira2 and Crispim Cerutti3*

Author Affiliations

1 Infectious Diseases Outpatient Clinic of the Hospital Universitário Cassiano Antonio Moraes of Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Vitória, Espírito Santo State, Brazil

2 Secretary of Health of the Municipality of Vitória, Vitória, Espírito Santo State, Brazil

3 Tropical Medicine Unit and Program of Post Graduation in Collective Health of the Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Vitória, Espírito Santo State, Brazil

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2011, 11:306  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-306

Published: 2 November 2011



A paradoxical immunologic response (PIR) to Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART), defined as viral suppression without CD4 cell-count improvement, has been reported in the literature as 8 to 42%, around 15% in most instances. The present study aims to determine, in a cohort of HIV infected patients in Brazil, what factors were independently associated with such a discordant response to HAART.


A case-control study (1:4) matched by gender was conducted among 934 HIV infected patients on HAART in Brazil. Cases: patients with PIR, defined as CD4 < 350 cells/mm3 (hazard ratio for AIDS or death of at least 8.5) and undetectable HIV viral load on HAART for at least one year. Controls: similar to cases, but with CD4 counts ≥ 350 cells/mm3. Eligibility criteria were applied. Data were collected from medical records using a standardized form. Variables were introduced in a hierarchical logistic regression model if a p-value < 0.1 was determined in a bivariate analysis.


Among 934 patients, 39 cases and 160 controls were consecutively selected. Factors associated with PIR in the logistic regression model were: total time in use of HAART (OR 0.981; CI 95%: 0.96-0.99), nadir CD4-count (OR 0.985; CI 95%: 0.97-0.99), and time of undetectable HIV viral load (OR 0.969; CI 95%: 0.94-0.99).


PIR seems to be related to a delay in the management of immunodeficient patients, as shown by its negative association with nadir CD4-count. Strategies should be implemented to avoid such a delay and improve the adherence to HAART as a way to implement concordant responses.