Dangerous Decline

BY HIV Plus Editors

November 01 2009 12:00 AM ET

An alarming new study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health warns that the immune systems of untreated HIVers may deteriorate more quickly than was previously believed. AIDS experts had thought that in the absence of antiretroviral therapy the immune system loses about 60 CD4 T cells per cubic millimeter per year. But the new study showed that half of untreated HIVers with a median 556 CD4-cell count dropped below the 350-cell threshold in just a year and a half -- a rate closer to 140 cells per cubic millimeter of blood lost annually.

Because the study was fairly small, the NIH is calling for closer observation of a larger cohort of recently infected adults to confirm their findings. If accurate, they could have significant implications for future clinical trial designs and HIV patient care.

Tags: Features