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Nigerian Journal of Physiological Sciences
Physiological Society of Nigeria
ISSN: 0794-859X
Vol. 22, Num. 1-2, 2007, pp. 93-97

Nigerian Journal of Physiological Sciences, Vol. 22, No. 1-2, 2007, pp. 93-97

CD4 Count Levels and Pattern of Respiratory Complications in HIV Seropositive Patients in Calabar, Nigeria.

* E. J. Peters 1, O. E. Essien 1, K. K. Immananagha 3, G. A. Inah 2, E. E. Phillip-ephraim1, R. E. Agbulu 1

1Department of Medicine, UCTH, Calabar
2Department of Radiology, UCTH, Calabar
3Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa.

Received: 29/6/2007
Accepted: 15/11/2007 

Code Number: np07016

Summary

A prospective observational study was carried out to describe the pattern of pulmonary complications in hospitalized patients with Human Immune-deficiency Virus (HIV) infection at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Calabar between January 2005 to December 2006. One hundred and twenty-four patients which consists 60 males and 64 females, aged between 20 – 60 who met the inclusion criteria formed the subjects for the study. The mean age of the subjects was 34.60+ 1.2 years. A structured questionnaire was used to obtain the demographic data, clinical information and CD4 lymphocyte count. Radiological analysis of chest was done with the chest X-ray of each subject. Chronic productive cough topped the list of respiratory symptoms (89%) followed by chest pain (74%) and dyspnea (62%). Lung consolidation was the commonest respiratory sign as seen in 44% of the cases. Hilar lymphadenopathy was seen in (35%), Pleural effusion (32%), lung fibrosis (21%) and finger clubbing (15%). The clinical and radiological pattern of most patients with chronic cough was highly suggestive of mycobacterial infection such as tuberculosis, although only 40% of cases had positive Acid Fast Baccilli. The mean CD4 lymphocyte count level was 174.8 + 5.4 cells/ml and this may be responsible for the respiratory findings as opportunistic lung infections are said to be commoner at CD4 count levels below 200 cells/ml. However, four patients had mediasternal masses which may suggest neoplasms. Concerted efforts and continuous evaluation of these patients are needed to determine the spectrum of respiratory illnesses among HIV positive patients in Calabar. 

Key Words: CD4, Respiratory, complications, HIV/AIDS, Calabar.

Introduction

Pulmonary complications have been one of he commonest causes of morbidity and mortality since the advent of Acquired Immune-deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Afessa, 2001 and Murray et al, 1984). Seropositive patients nonetheless, are also prone to other infectious and non-infectious conditions. However, the type of pulmonary complications that develop depend on the degree of immnuo suppression (Huang, 1998). The pulmonary complications are also likely to vary according to geographical location, HIV risk factors, gender, race or ethnicity and social habits of patients.

Respiratory symptoms which are frequent in HIV infected individuals may be due to a wide spectrum of diseases (GroupTpcoHis, 1993). The spectrum of pulmonary illnesses in HIV infected patients include both opportunistic infections and neoplasms (Wallace et al, 1997). The opportunistic infections are caused by bacterial, mycobacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic pathogens.  A pilot study conducted in USA on the pulmonary complications of HIV infected patients demonstrated that respiratory symptoms are frequent complaints in HIV infected individuals and there was increase in frequency as the CD4 cell count declines below 200cells/ml (Wallace et al, 1993). However, such study has not been carried out in our environment, which has one of the highest prevalent rates of HIV infection in the country (FMOH, 2004).

This study is therefore aimed at evaluating the pattern of respiratory complications amongst HIV seropositive patients seen at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital over a 2-year period. Knowledge of the pattern of pulmonary complications in patients with HIV infection will help clinicians develop faster diagnostic and therapeutic approach to patients management.

Subjects and Methods

A two-year prospective study (January, 2005 – December, 2006) was carried out in Calabar to evaluate CD4 lymphocyte count levels in HIV seropositive patients and pattern of respiratory complications amongst these patients. Confirmed HIV positive patients with CD4 count levels below 500cells/ml who were receiving free Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment from Pepfar Clinic and subsequently admitted at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital with respiratory complications were enrolled for the study within the period.

A total of 124 patients, which consisted 60 males and 64 females aged between 20 – 60, were used for the study. The mean age of patients was 34.60 + 1.2 years. Data on gender, age, marital status, occupational history, respiratory symptoms/signs, chest radiograph findings and CD4 lymphocyte count were collected. The investigators, physicians and radiologist reviewed all chest radiographs and the pattern of respiratory complications were noted after thorough clinical examination of the patients. Mycobacterial organisms were identified by Ziehl-Neelson stain only. Other bacterial organisms were cultured. However, it was not possible to culture mycobacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic organisms as there were no facilities in the hospital.

Similarly, bronchoscopic examination on the subjects could not be done to ascertain definitive lung pathology due to lack of such facility. Antibiotic susceptibility tests were reviewed for cultured cases. Information on the bio-data, past medical history, social habits, and respiratory symptoms/signs were obtained using a prepared structured questionnaire administered to all patients. Data obtained were carefully documented in an information sheet prepared for each patient and analyzed with an Epi info version 6.0 software. All means were expressed with their standard deviation. However, no statistical analysis was done.

Table 1: Demographical characteristics of the subjects

Sex:
       Male
       Female

Total No. (n)/Percentage (%)
60 (48)
64 (52)

Marital status:

       Single
       Married
       Widowed
       Separated

 

66 (53)
44 (34)
10 (8)
6 (5)

Age distribution:

       <20 years

       21 – 25

       26 – 30

       31 – 35

       36 – 40

       41 – 45

       46 – 50

       51 – 55

       >55

Total (n/%)

13 (10)

16 (13)

18 (15)

36 (29)

16 (13)

10 (8)

8 (6)

4 (3)

4 (3)

Male n/%)

-

4 (3)

6 (5)

24 (19)

10 (8)

10 (8)

4 (3)

2 (1.5)

- (0)

Female n/%)

12 (10)

12 (10)

12 (10)

12 (10)

6 (5)

- (0)

4 (3)

2 (1.5)

4 (3)

Occupational status:

      Students
      Businesspersons
      Civil servants
      Drivers
      Housewives    

 

30 (24)
52 (42)
12 (9.5)
22 (18)
8 (6)

Mean CD4 count  =             173.85 + 5.4cells/ml 
Mean age              =             34.6 + 1.2 years
Positive AFB        =             25/62 (40%)
Negative AFB       =             32/62 (53%)

Results

One hundred and twenty-four patients which consisted of 60 males and 64 females were enrolled for the study after meeting the inclusion criteria. The mean age of patients was 34.60 + 1.2 years.  Table I shows the demographic characteristics of the subjects. Unmarried patients formed the bulk of the patients (53%) while the remaining patients were married, widowed or separated. Majority of the patients (29%) were in the age group 31 – 35 and about (80%) were below forty years of age. Students accounted for 24% of the patients surveyed, while private businesspersons were 42%. Twenty-two (18%) of the subjects were drivers.  Table II illustrates the pattern of respiratory symptoms amongst the subjects surveyed. Chronic productive cough topped the list with 89%, followed by chest pain 74%, dyspnea 62% and sinusitis 37%. Non-productive cough was seen in only 11% of the subjects surveyed while 18% had cough with haemoptysis.

The pattern of respiratory signs and complications is shown in Table III. Lung consolidation was the commonest complication seen in 44% of the subjects surveyed and this was followed by hilar lymphadenopathy (35%), pleural effusion (32%), lung fibrosis (26%) and finger clubbing (15%). Mediasternal mass was seen in 4 (3%) of the patients. Positive AFB sputum examination was confirmed in only 40% of the cases surveyed while 53% were negative.

The CD4 lymphocyte count levels distribution of the subjects is as shown in Table IV. The mean CD4 count level was 173.85 + 5.1cells/ml. The bulk of the patients (27%) had a CD4 count level between 151-200cells/ml followed by a count between 101-150cells/ml as seen in 21% of patients. Less than 20% of the cases surveyed had a CD4 count level greater than 200cells/ml. 83% of the patients had a CD4 count of less than 200cells/ml.

Table 2: Respiratory symptoms

 

Total %

Male (n/%)

Female (n/%)

Chronic productive cough

110 (89)

54 (44)

56 (45)

Non-productive cough

14 (11)

6 (4)

8 (7)

Chest pain

92 (74)

44 (35)

43 (39)

Dyspnea

78 (62)

38 (30)

40 (32)

Haemoptis

22 (18)

12 (10)

10 (8)

Sinusitis

46 (37)

22 (18)

24 (19)

Table 3: Respiratory signs and diagnosis or complications

 

Total %

Male (n/%)

Female (n/%)

Fibrosis

32 (26)

16 (13)

16 (13)

Pleural effusion

40 (32)

22 (18)

18 (14)

Consolidation

54 (44)

26 (21)

28 (25)

Lymphadenopathy

44 (35)

24 (19)

20 (16)

Finger clubbing

30 (24)

16 (13)

14 (11)

Mediasternal mass

4 (3)

-

4 (3)

Table 4: CD4 Lymphocyte count level distribution (cells/ml)

Total %

Male (n/%)

Female (n/%)

0 – 50

24 (19)

14 (11)

10 (8)

51 – 100

20 (16)

16 (13)

4 (3)

101 – 150

26 (21)

8 (6)

18 (15)

151 – 200

34 (27)

14 (11)

20 (16)

201 – 250

6 (5)

4 (3)

2 (1.5)

251 – 300

4 (3)

2 (1.5)

2 (1.5)

>300

10 (8)

6 (5)

4 (3)

Discussion

This study collected clinical, laboratory and radiological data in a prospective and standardized form to access the pattern of respiratory complications in HIV seropositive patients in Calabar over a period of two years. The study intended to provide useful source of information on the pattern of respiratory illnesses in HIV infected patients in our environment. Subjects who reported chronic productive cough were 89%, chest pain 74% and shortness of breath 62%. These figures are higher than that reported by studies on the pulmonary complications of HIV infection in USA (Wallace, 1997; Moore and Charsson, 1996).

However, only 11% of the subjects had non-productive cough, which may clinically suggest infection by fungal infection such as pneumocystic carinii. This finding is quite different from studies reported in North America and Europe where P. carinii infection is the commonest type of non-mycobacterial infection seen in HIV infected patients (Stansell et al, 1997 and Delorenzo et al, 1991).

Mycobacterial infection such as tuberculosis still remains the commonest type of respiratory infection in Nigeria as documented in other studies (Idoko et al, 1994; Idigbe et al, 1994 and Peters et al, 2005). This was also amply demonstrated in our study in which a significant percentage of the patients presented with chronic productive cough, haemoptysis and other constitutional symptoms suggestive of mycobacterial infection. Indeed, tuberculosis is the most common opportunistic infection associated with HIV worldwide (Daley et al, 1992).  The study also revealed that upper respiratory tract illnesses such as sinusitis and upper respiratory infection were not as common as documented in the pulmonary complications of HIV infection study in USA. These illnesses were found to be even more common than bacterial pneumonia and tuberculosis in that study (Wallace et al, 1997).

However, lung consolidation was the commonest pattern of respiratory pathology elicited among the patient surveyed (44%). This may suggest the higher prevalence of pneumonia, which may be largely bacterial in origin than opportunistic pneumonia, which has the highest prevalence in other studies (Delorenzo et al, 1991 and Koracs et al, 1984). 

Pleural effusion was seen in 32% of the case while lung fibrosis was seen in 26%. These findings coupled with chronic productive cough in these patients may strongly suggest tuberculosis, which has been documented to be fairly common amongst HIV patient (Charsson et al, 1987). In this study, more than 50% of patients surveyed had negative AFB smear and this was similar to findings by Afessa on survey of African-American Patients in Pulmonary Complication study in USA (Afessa, 2001). However, tuberculosis can affect people with HIV no matter what level of their CD4 count, which means that tuberculosis can often occur years before other problems associated with HIV develop. Lymphadenopathy was seen in 35% of the subject while mediasternal mass was found in only four patients with HIV but is more likely in those with CD4 count of less than 200cells/ml. In patients with HIV infection, about 20% may develop a malignancy (Beral and Weiss, 1991).

The mean CD4 lymphocyte count in patients surveyed was 173.85 + 5.4cells/ml. In patients not treated with highly active antiretroviral drugs, the CD4 cell count is an excellent indicator of an HIV infected patient’s risk of developing a specific opportunistic infection or neoplasm, presumable because it reflects the stage of HIV disease and degree of immuno compromise. Many respiratory illnesses such as upper respiratory tract infection, sinusitis, bacterial pneumonia and tuberculosis are more common in HIV infected persons than in immuno-competent ones. These diseases have occurred in HIV infected patients at all CD4 count ranges (Huang, 1998).

However, studies have shown that there is a higher prevalence of diseases such as bacterial pneumonia and tuberculosis as the CD4 count level declines (Wallace et al, 1997, and Hanson et al, 1995). This is consistent with findings in our study in which the mean CD4 count was below 200cells/ml and about 90% of patients presented with chronic productive cough. Thus, knowledge of the CD4 count level in HIV patients is extremely useful in making differential diagnosis and suggesting a diagnostic and therapeutic plan.

In addition, it is likely that demographic and regional differences will affect the spectrum of illnesses seen in our environment. This is because, few patients may be injection drug users, or on illicit drugs and homosexuality is still very uncommon. It has been well documented that a patient’s HIV transmission category and habits provide insights into the relative frequency of various HIV-related opportunistic infections and neoplasm (Afessa, 2001 and Selwyn et al, 1997).

A travel and residence history may provide further information about exposures to HIV infection and certain organisms. This may explain why a significant percentage of patients surveyed in our study were long distance drivers. This study had several limitations. Some important data such as cigarette smoking and use of chemoprophylaxis were not collected. Similarly, invasive investigation like diagnostic bronchoscope was not performed and moreover there was no facility for culture and isolation of mycobacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic organisms.

In conclusion, the study has described the spectrum of respiratory illnesses seen in HIV infected patients in Calabar. Respiratory infection still remains the commonest type of respiratory illnesses. The application of highly active antiretroviral treatment is likely to be associated with changes in type and severity of pulmonary complications that we see in these patients. The pulmonary complications are also likely to vary according to geographical locations, HIV risk factors and severity of immuno-suppression. It is therefore recommended that continuous monitoring of these patients be performed in order to ascertain the pulmonary complications that may develop.  

References

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©Physiological Society of Nigeria, 2007

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