T-cell subset counting and the fight against AIDS: Reflections over a 20-year struggle



The story of T-lymphocyte subset immunophenotyping technology is reviewed on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of CD4 T-cell enumeration. Over time, immunophenotyping has evolved into precise, reliable, but complicated and expensive technology requiring fresh blood samples. The gating technologies that were universally adapted for clinical flow cytometry for the past decade relied on rapidly deteriorating morphological scatter characteristics of leukocytes. This special issue dedicated to CD4 T-cell enumeration features most of the available new options that will have a significant impact on how this technology will be implemented within the first decade of the 21st century. In a series of original publications, including the new NIH guideline for T-cell subset enumeration, contemporary gating protocols that use immunologically logical parameters are presented as part of the more reliable and affordable immunophenotyping alternative. Some of the improvements addressed here include the costs of the assays and the capacity to monitor interlaboratory and intralaboratory performances. It is clear that an effective attack on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic has to embrace resource-poor regions. Reducing the cost of the assay while improving reliability and durability is a move in the right direction. Cytometry (Clin. Cytometry) 50:39–45, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.