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Open Access Research

Affordable flow cytometry for enumeration of absolute CD4+ T-lymphocytes to identify subtype C HIV-1 infected adults requiring antiretroviral therapy (ART) and monitoring response to ART in a resource-limited setting

Lynn S Zijenah1*, Gerard Kadzirange2, Simon Madzime3, Margaret Borok4, Chiedza Mudiwa1, Ocean Tobaiwa1, Mary Mucheche5, Simbarashe Rusakaniko6 and David A Katzenstein7

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Immunology, College of Health Sciences University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe

2 Chitungwiza Central Hospital, Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe

3 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, College of Health Sciences University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe

4 Department of Medicine, College of Health Sciences University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe

5 Zimbabwe AIDS Prevention Project, Harare, Zimbabwe

6 Department of Community Medicine, College of Health Sciences University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe

7 Division of Infectious Diseases and AIDS Research, Stanford University Medical School, Stanford, California, USA

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Journal of Translational Medicine 2006, 4:33  doi:10.1186/1479-5876-4-33

Published: 14 August 2006

Abstract

Background

The World Health Organization (WHO)'s "3 × 5 program" has spurred efforts to place 3 million people on combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) for treatment of AIDS in resource-limited countries. Paradoxically, the cost of CD4+ T-lymphocyte count essential for decision-making to commence HIV positive adults on ART as well as for monitoring responses to ART remains unaffordable in most resource-limited countries. Thus, low-cost methods for enumerating CD4+ T-lymphocyte are urgently needed.

Objective

To evaluate Cyflow cytometry (Cyflow SL, Partec, Munster, Germany) for enumeration of absolute CD4+ T-lymphocyte in subtype C HIV-1 seropositive subjects using FACSCount (Becton and Dickinson, Immunocytometry Systems, San Jose, CA, USA) as the "predicate method".

Methods

A total of 150 HIV-1 seropositive subjects were included in the evaluation exercise. Fifty-eight specimens were collected from pregnant HIV-1 seropositive women (subtype C drug resistance study). Twenty-seven specimens were collected from women and their spouses with AIDS followed in a Duke ART study to assess the immunologic and virologic responses to generic ART, comprising Stavudine, Lamivudine and Nevirapine (Stalanev, Varichem Labs, Harare, Zimbabwe). Sixty-five specimens were collected from AIDS patients enrolled in an ongoing Kaposi Sarcoma (KS) study to investigate impact of ART on KS progression. Enumeration of CD4+ T-lymphocytes using FACSCount is routinely conducted for all the three studies. The Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe and Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe approved the studies. Whole blood was collected in EDTA vacutainer tubes and aliquoted into two tubes (200 μL in each). CD4+ T-lymphocyte counts were enumerated using a Cyflow counter, in the Department of Immunology and a FACSCount in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology within 6 hours of phlebotomy following manufacturers' instructions.

Results

Using linear regression analysis, there was a very strong correlation (R = 0.991) between the overall CD4+ T-lymphocyte counts obtained by FACSCount and those obtained by Cyflow. When data analysis was stratified by study groups, there was a strong correlation between the FACSCount and Cyflow CD4+ T-lymphocyte counts from subjects in the three independent studies; Subtype C resistance (R2 = 0.987), Duke ART (R2 = 0.980) and KS (R2 = 0.994), Table 1.

Using Bland-Altman plots, the overall, absolute CD4+ T lymphocytes obtained by the two methods were in excellent agreement (mean difference 1.21, 95% Confidence Interval {CI): -2.1 to 3.3). For the 0–250 CD4+ T-lymphocytes range, the CD4 counts obtained using FACSCount were also in good agreement with those obtained using Cyflow counter (mean difference = 2.6 cells/μL, 95% CI: -1.1 to 6.3). Similarly, in the 251–500 (mean difference 1.0, cells/μL, 95% CI: -3.7 to 5.6) and the 501–1200 (mean difference = 0.29 cells/μL, 95% CI: -8.1 to 8.7) CD4 T-lymphocytes range, good agreement was observed.

Conclusion

The Cyflow counter is as accurate as the FACSCount in enumerating absolute CD4+ T-lymphocytes in the range 1–1200 cells/μL. Cyflow cytometry is relatively affordable, easy to use technology that is useful not only in identifying HIV seropositive individuals who require ART but also for monitoring immunologic responses to ART.