Treatment of schistosomiasis increases helminth-specific type 2 cytokines and HIV-1 viral loads in co-infected Ugandan adults
Studies showing that helminths stimulate type 2 cytokine responses and influence responses to unrelated antigens suggest that helminths may accelerate human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) disease progression in coinfected individuals and that antihelminthic therapy may be beneficial. By the same logic, however, the increase in type 2 cytokines occurring immediately after antischistosomal treatment might increase viral replication and be detrimental.
To assess the effect of antischistosomal therapy on immune responses and HIV-1 replication, a cohort of 163 Ugandans coinfected with Schistosoma mansoni and HIV-1 was treated with praziquantel. CD4(+) T lymphocyte counts, eosinophil counts, and plasma HIV-1 RNA concentrations were measured before treatment and 1 month and 5 months after treatment. Schistosoma mansoni- and Mycobacterium tuberculosis-specific cytokine responses and serum interleukin (IL)-10 concentrations were analyzed.
Transient increases in viral load and sustained decreases in CD4(+) T lymphocyte count were observed, especially in subjects with higher-intensity infections. Despite enhanced posttreatment S. mansoni-specific type 2 responses, no increase in eosinophils or in M. tuberculosis-specific type 2 responses nor any decline in M. tuberculosis-specific interferon (IFN)-gamma responses were seen. A significant decline in circulating IL-10 concentrations was observed.
Although the mechanisms underlying the increase in viral load after treatment with praziquantel are unclear, these results do not support the hypothesis that treating schistosomiasis is beneficial in the management of HIV-1 disease in Africa.