Contribution of immune activation to the pathogenesis and transmission of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection

S. D. Lawn, S. T. Butera, T. M. Folks

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

215 Scopus citations


The life cycle of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is intricately related to the activation state of the host cells supporting viral replication. Although cellular activation is essential to mount an effective host immune response to invading pathogens, paradoxically the marked systemic immune activation that accompanies HIV-1 infection in vivo may play an important role in sustaining phenomenal rates of HIV-1 replication in infected persons. Moreover by inducing CD4+ cell loss by apoptosis, immune activation may further be central to the increased rate of CD4+ cell turnover and eventual development of CD4+ lymphocytopenia. In addition to HIV-1-induced immune activation, exogenous immune stimuli such as opportunistic infections may further impact the rate of HIV-1 replication systemically or at localized anatomical sites. Such stimuli may also lead to genotypic and phenotypic changes in the virus pool. Together, these various immunological effects on the biology of HIV-1 may potentially enhance disease progression in HIV-infected persons and may ultimately outweigh the beneficial aspects of antiviral immune responses. This may be particularly important for those living in developing countries, where there is little or no access to antiretroviral drugs and where frequent exposure to pathogenic organisms sustains a chronically heightened state of immune activation. Moreover, immune activation associated with sexually transmitted diseases, chorioamnionitis, and mastitis may have important local effects on HIV-1 replication that may increase the risk of sexual or mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1. The aim of this paper is to provide a broad review of the interrelationship between immune activation and the immunopathogenesis, transmission, progression, and treatment of HIV-1 infection in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)753-777
Number of pages25
JournalClinical Microbiology Reviews
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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