The Open AIDS Journal

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Correlation of High Interleukin 17A and Interleukin 6 Levels with High Virus Load Among Subtype C HIV-infected, Antiretroviral Therapy-naive Zimbabwean Patients: A Cross-sectional Study

Tommy Mlambo1, Mqondisi Tshabalala1, Tsitsi Bandason2, Kudakwashe Mhandire3, Bonface Mudenge4, Lynn Sodai Zijenah1, *
1 Department of Immunology, University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences, Harare, Zimbabwe
2 Biomedical Research and Training Institute, Harare, Zimbabwe
3 Department of Chemical Pathology, University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences, Harare, Zimbabwe
4 Flow Cytometry Laboratories and Medical Centre, Harare, Zimbabwe



In response to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, activated immune cells produce several cytokines that alter the immune response and HIV disease progression. We quantified Th1/Th2/Th17 cytokines in an antiretroviral therapy naïve (ART) cohort to investigate their correlation with traditional markers of HIV disease progression; CD4+ T-lymphocytes and virus load (VL).


We enrolled 247 HIV-infected ART-naïve participants into the study. CD4+ T- and CD8+ T-lymphocytes were enumerated using flow cytometry. VL was quantified using the Cavidi ExaVirTM Load assay. IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, IL-17A, TNF-α, and IFN-γ levels were quantified using the BD Cytometric Bead Array Human Th1/Th2/Th17 cytokine assay. The Kendall’s rank correlation coefficient was used to determine the correlation between log10 transformed data for cytokine levels and CD4+ T- and CD8+ T-lymphocytes, CD4/CD8 ratio, and VL.


The median CD4+ T- and CD8+ T-lymphocyte counts were 458 cells/µL (IQR:405-556) and 776 cells/µL (IQR:581-1064), respectively. The median CD4/CD8 ratio was 0.6 (IQR: 0.45-0.86). The median VL was log103.3.copies/mL (IQR:2.74-3.93). Low CD4+ T-lymphocyte counts (p=0.010) and CD4/CD8 ratio (p=0.044) were significantly correlated with high VL. There was no significant correlation of cytokine levels with CD4+ T-, CD8+ T-lymphocyte counts and CD4/CD8 ratio. However, high levels of IL-17A (p=0.012) and IL-6 (p=0.034) were significantly correlated with high VL.


Our study contributes to the little knowledge available on the role of cytokine profiles in the immune response to subtype C HIV infection.

Keywords: HIV, CD4+ T- and CD8+ T-lymphocytes, CD4/CD8 ratio, Cytokines, IL-6 and IL-17A.

Article Information

Identifiers and Pagination:

Year: 2019
Volume: 13
First Page: 59
Last Page: 64
Publisher Id: TOAIDJ-13-59
DOI: 10.2174/1874613601913010059

Article History:

Received Date: 21/04/2019
Revision Received Date: 05/07/2019
Acceptance Date: 14/07/2019
Electronic publication date: 31/07/2019
Collection year: 2019

© 2019 Mlambo et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Immunology, University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences, Harare, Zimbabwe; Tel: +263712631198; E-mail:

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