Thymoglobulin-Associated Cd4+ T-Cell Depletion and Infection Risk in HIV-Infected Renal Transplant Recipients



HIV-infected patients are increasingly referred for kidney transplantation, and may be at an increased risk for rejection. Treatment for rejection frequently includes thymoglobulin. We studied thymoglobulin's effect on CD4+ T-cell count, risk of infection and rejection reversal in 20 consecutive HIV-infected kidney recipients. All patients used antiretroviral therapy and opportunistic infection prophylaxis. Maintenance immunosuppression consisted of prednisone, mycophenolate mofetil and cyclosporine. Eleven patients received thymoglobulin (7 for rejection and 4 for delayed/slow graft function) while 9 did not. These two groups were similar in age, gender, race, donor characteristics and immunosuppression. Mean CD4+ T-cell counts remained stable in patients who did not receive thymoglobulin, but became profoundly suppressed in those who did, decreasing from 475 ± 192 to 9 ± 10 cells/μL (p < 0.001). Recovery time ranged from 3 weeks to 2 years despite effective HIV suppression. Although opportunistic infections were successfully suppressed, low CD4+ T-cell count was associated with increased risk of serious infections requiring hospitalization. Rejection reversed in 6 of 7 patients receiving thymoglobulin. We conclude that thymoglobulin reverses acute rejection in HIV-infected kidney recipients, but produces profound and long-lasting suppression of the CD4+ T-cell count associated with increased risk of infections requiring hospitalization.