Document Type



Biological and Biomedical Sciences; Paediatrics and Child Health


Background: CMV and EBV co-infections can affect the HIV disease progression by modulating the immune system. The disease dynamics can differ in HIV-positive adults and children. In Pakistan, HIV is rapidly expanding, especially in children; however, the prevalence of CMV and EBV co-infection and the effect on immune modulation in HIV-positive children are not known. This study aimed to bridge this gap by estimating the rate of active CMV and EBV co-infection in HIV-positive children, followed by the analysis of differential expression of cytokines in HIV mono- and HIV/CMV/EBV co-infected children.
Methods: DNA samples from 319 HIV-positive children, previously recruited as part of a study to investigate the HIV outbreak in Larkana, Pakistan, in 2019, were screened for CMV and EBV through qPCR. Subsequently, differences in HIV viral loads and CD4 counts were analyzed between the HIV mono- and HIV/CMV/EBV co-infected groups. The RNA samples were used to determine the differential expression of both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in the mono- and co-infected groups using RT-qPCR, while unpaired T-test and Pearson correlation test were applied to, respectively, analyze the differential cytokine expression and correlation between cytokine in the two groups.
Results: Of 319 samples, the rate of active EBV and CMV co-infection in HIV-positive children was observed in 79.9% and 38.9%, respectively. A significant difference was observed in HIV viral load between HIV mono- and co-infected groups. IFN-γ expression was found to be lower in the HIV mono-infected group, while higher in all other three co-infected groups. Meanwhile, mRNA expression of TGF-β1 was found to be lower in HIV mono- and HIV-CMV-EBV co-infected groups, while higher in HIV-CMV and HIV-EBV co-infected groups. IFN-γ and IL-2 exhibited a significant positive correlation in all except HIV-CMV co-infected group. Conclusions: The study suggests that the presence of EBV/CMV co-infection can affect the HIV viral loads and expression of certain cytokines (IFN-γ and TGF-β1), which may affect the HIV disease dynamics in infected children.


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