Background: The effect of previous CD4 cell count nadir on clinical progression in patients with increases in CD4 cell counts has not been investigated.
Objective: To assess risk for progression of HIV disease in patients with CD4 counts of at least 200 cells/mm3 (stratified by the lowest previous CD4 count) and compare the rate of progression in patients with CD4 counts less than 50 cells/mm3 with that in patients whose CD4 counts rebounded from less than 50 cells/mm3 to at least 200 cells/mm3.
Design: Prospective, observational multicenter study.
Setting: 52 HIV outpatient clinics in Europe.
Patients: Two groups were identified: those with CD4 counts of at least 200 cells/mm3 (group A) and those with CD4 counts less than 50 cells/mm3 (group B). Group A was stratified according to the lowest previous CD4 count: at least 150 cells/mm3 (stratum 1), 100 to 149 cells/mm3 (stratum 2), 50 to 99 cells/mm3 (stratum 3), and 1 to 50 cells/mm3 (stratum 4).
Measurements: Patients were followed until a progression event occurred (first AIDS-defining event, new AIDS-defining event, or death) or until the CD4 count decreased to less than 200 cells/mm3 (group A) or increased to more than 50 cells/mm3 (group B). Incidence rates were based on a patient-years analysis and reported as events per 100 patient-years of follow-up; the relative hazards for progression were based on Cox proportional-hazards models.
Results: The overall rate of disease progression in group A was 3.9 per 100 patient-years (95% CI, 3.5 to 4.3 per 100 patient-years), whereas in group B it was much higher (72.9 per 100 patient-years [CI, 69.0 to 76.8 per 100 patient-years]). In group A, the rate increased in patients with previous low CD4 cell count nadirs, resulting in a significant increase in the relative hazard for progression. The relative hazards for strata 2, 3, and 4 were 2.29 (CI, 1.30 to 4.03), 3.65 (CI, 1.94 to 6.85), and 2.94 (CI, 1.44 to 6.00), respectively.
Conclusions: Increases in CD4 counts from very low levels to at least 200 cells/mm3 are associated with a much reduced rate of disease progression. However, a previously low CD4 cell count nadir remains associated with a moderately higher risk for disease progression among patients with CD4 counts of at least 200 cells/mm3.
*For members of the EuroSIDA Study Group, see Appendix.