BACKGROUND: Tuberculosis-associated immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (TB-IRIS) is an inflammatory complication in HIV-TB co-infected patients receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). The role of disturbed T cell reconstitution in TB-IRIS is not well understood. We investigated T cell activation and maturation profiles in patients who developed TB-IRIS at different intervals during ART.
METHODS: Twenty-two HIV-TB patients who developed early-onset TB-IRIS and 10 who developed late-onset TB-IRIS were matched for age, sex and CD4 count to equal numbers of HIV-TB patients who did not develop TB-IRIS. Flow cytometry analysis was performed on fresh blood, drawn before and after ART initiation and during TB-IRIS events. T cell activation and maturation was measured on CD4+ and CD8+ T cells using CD45RO, CD38, HLA-DR, CCR7 and CD27 antibodies.
RESULTS: CD8+ T cell activation before ART was decreased in both early-onset (77% vs. 82%, p = 0.014) and late-onset (71% vs. 83%, p = 0.012) TB-IRIS patients compared to non-IRIS controls. After ART initiation, the observed differences in T cell activation disappeared. During late-onset, but not early-onset TB-IRIS, we observed a skewing from memory to terminal effector CD4+ and CD8+ T cell populations (p≤0.028).
CONCLUSION: Our data provide evidence of reduced CD8+ T cell activation before ART as a common predisposing factor of early- and late-onset TB-IRIS. The occurrence of TB-IRIS itself was not marked by an over-activated CD8+ T cell compartment. Late- but not early-onset TB-IRIS was characterized by a more terminally differentiated T cell phenotype.