Dysfunction of natural killer cells in human immunodeficiency virus-infected children with or without Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia
The development of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected children with normal T-cell numbers is contrary to previous experience with HIV-infected adults, in whom low CD4+ T-cell numbers predict susceptibility to PCP. To determine whether PCP in HIV-infected children reflects a qualitative T-cell or other immune defect, we studied four HIV-infected children who also had PCP and 10 others without PCP for T-cell and natural killer (NK) cell function. Most of the HIV-infected children had normal T-cell numbers for age, and all had CD4+ T-cell numbers greater than those predictive of PCP in HIV-infected adults. All HIV-infected children had normal T-cell function in vitro. The HIV-infected children as a whole had deficient NK cell cytolysis. We obtained a significant interactive effect of age by health status for NK cell function between patients and age-matched control subjects. All HIV-infected children with defective NK cell function failed to enhance their NK cell cytolysis when their mononuclear cells were stimulated with recombinant interferon alfa (r-IFN-alpha). This NK cell defect in HIV-infected children may facilitate the development of secondary infection.