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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected (HIV+) men are more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections, and may be superinfected by HIV. We hypothesized that HIV induces immune alterations in the foreskin that may impact the subsequent acquisition/clearance of genital coinfections.
Foreskin tissue and blood were obtained from 70 HIV-uninfected and 20 HIV+ men undergoing circumcision. T cells were characterized by flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, and polymerase chain reaction.
There was substantial influx of CD8 T-cells into the foreskins of HIV+ men (108.8 vs 23.1 cells/mm(2); P < .001); but foreskin CD4 T-cell density was unchanged (43.0 vs 33.7/mm(2); P = .67), despite substantial blood depletion (409.0 vs 877.8 cells/µL; P < .001). While frequencies of foreskin C-C chemokine receptor type 5(+) (CCR5(+)) T cells, T regulatory cells, and T-helper 17 cells were unaltered in HIV+ men, CD8 T-cell production of tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) was decreased. HIV-specific CD8 T cells were present in the foreskins of HIV+ men, although their frequency and function was reduced compared to the blood.
Foreskin CD4 T-cell density and CCR5 expression were not reduced during HIV infection, perhaps explaining susceptibility to HIV superinfection. Foreskin CD8 T-cell density was increased, but decreased production of TNFα may enhance susceptibility to genital coinfections in HIV+ men.
HIV; T cells; circumcision; cytokines; sexually transmitted infections