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SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccination and short-term changes in viral load and CD4/CD8 T-cell counts in people living with HIV

Vergori A, Cozzi-Lepri A, Tavelli A, Mazzotta V, Azzini AM, Gagliardini R, Mastrorosa I, Latini A, Pellicanò G, Taramasso L, Ceccherini-Silberstein F, Giannella M, Tacconelli E, Marchetti G, Monforte AD, Antinori A; Vax ICONA ORCHESTRA Study group

Objectives: To investigate whether SARS-CoV-2 messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccination has an impact on HIV-related viro-immunological parameters.

Methods: People with HIV (PWH) in the VAXICONA-ORCHESTRA cohort who received one or more doses of SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine and for whom paired measures of immuno-virological markers (viral load, clusters of differentiation [CD]4, and CD8 count 1 month before and after a vaccine dose [VD]) were available were included. Paired t-test and generalized estimating equation linear regression analyses were used to study changes over ± 1 month around the VD. Subgroup analyses were performed.

Results: A total of 510 PWH were enrolled: the median age was 55 years (interquartile range 46-60 years), the CD4 and CD8 count were 489 (287-719) and 790 (59-1104) cells/mm3, respectively, and 81% received three VDs. After a median of 28 (3-53) days from VD, CD4 count increased by +15 cells/mm3 (SD ± 129.7, P = 0.001) and CD8 by +12 (±250.5, P = 0.199) and the viral load decreased by -0.11 log10 (±0.88, P = 0.001). Similar results were observed after restricting the analysis to viro-suppressed PWH, with CD4 ≤200/mm3, more than 6 months of antiretroviral therapy before VD and after excluding previous COVID-19.

Conclusions: A small significant increase in CD4 count and a negligible drop in HIV RNA were observed. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine can prime CD4 T spike-specific cells, even in the more immuno-compromised PWH.

Keywords: CD4 count; CD8 count; HIV; HIV RNA; Viro-immunological changes; mRNA SARS-CoV-2 vaccine

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