Research Highlight

Biomarkers for HIV infection

doi:10.1038/nindia.2009.309 Published online 8 October 2009

Indo-US researchers have reported the changes that HIV brings about in certain bodily biochemicals to suggest that they could be potential biomarkers for the immune deficiency virus1.

In humans, HIV attaches itself to a membrane protein called CD4, unleashing its harmful effects on nerve cells, hormonal and immune systems. As infection progresses, the number of CD4 cells dwindles. About 90% HIV-infected people are affected by HIV-1. The negative impact of HIV-1B on neuroendocrines and immune systems is well established. But, that of HIV-1C remains shrouded in mystery.

To shed light on HIV-1C infection, the researchers monitored blood levels of several hormones including cortisol and DHEAS (Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate). They explored the relationship of these biochemicals with declining CD4 cell counts among HIV-1C infected individuals and compared this with data from HIV negative individuals.

During the asymptomatic phase of HIV infection, they found an increase in blood cortisol and a decrease in DHEAS. These may serve as important biomarkers that point to a progressive decline in immune system function.

HIV-1C infection also disrupts the activity of a vital enzyme(3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase) involved in the synthesis of cortisol and DHEA. This might aid drug development to restore the enzyme activity for therapeutic application in HIV-1C infection, the researchers say.

The authors of this work are from: National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, and Seva Clinic, Bangalore, Karnataka, India; Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, University of Miami; Miller School of Medicine, Miami; and Center for Clinical and Translational Research, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH, USA.


  1. Chittiprol, S. et al. HIV-1 clade C infection and progressive disruption in the relationship between cortisol, DHEAS and CD4 cell numbers: A two-year follow-up study. Clin. Chim. Acta 409, 4-10 (2009) | Article | PubMed |