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Objective: To assess changes in the proportion of CD4 and CD8 T-lymphocyte profiles during pregnancy, at delivery and postpartum, and to determine whether HIV-1 infection affects the normal profile.

Design and methods: A total of 416 pregnant HIV-1-infected women and an age and parity-matched HIV-seronegative group of 407 pregnant women were enrolled into a prospective study on the impact of HIV-1 infection on pregnancy. Maternal blood was obtained for lymphocyte subset determination at enrolment, delivery and 6 weeks postpartum. Whole blood sample drawn in EDTA-containing tubes were used to determine T-helper/inducer (CD4) and T-suppressor/cytotoxic (CD8) cells by direct immunofluorescence using monoclonal antibodies.

Results: No relationship was found between gestational age and any immunological variable. The CD4 percentage was lower postpartum than antenatally, in both HIV-1-seropositive and seronegative women, but this was not true for absolute CD4 counts. CD8 absolute counts and percentages were significantly higher postpartum than antenatally. The differences between HIV-1-seropositive and seronegative women in changes over pregnancy in CD4 and CD8 cells and their ratio, were not statistically significant.

Conclusion: Our findings do not support a short-term synergistic effect of HIV-1 and pregnancy on the immune function as determined by T-lymphocyte subsets.

(C) Lippincott-Raven Publishers.