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Serum free light chains in patients with HIV infection: their association with markers of disease severity and antiretroviral use


Aim Serum free light chain measurements are used to follow-up and manage patients with monoclonal gammopathies, and abnormal ratios are associated with risk of progression in certain diseases. B cell dysfunction is well described in HIV and patients are at risk of developing B cell lymphomas. This study investigated whether HIV is associated with abnormal free light chain levels and the impact of antiretroviral treatment (ART) on these.

Methods κ And λ free light chain concentrations and ratios, serum albumin and immunoglobulin G (IgG) were measured in 366 HIV positive subjects and correlated with CD4+ counts, viral loads, IgG, albumin and ART use.

Results 66% were women and most were black Africans (66%), 26% were of mixed ethnicity and 8% were Caucasian or of unknown or other race. 89% were on ART. κ Free light chain values ranged from 5.59 to 357.0 mg/L (median 19.6 mg/L) and λ free light chain values ranged from 9.28 to 286 mg/L (median 22.3 mg/L). Both correlated positively with viral load and IgG and negatively with CD4+ counts and albumin concentrations. The ratio only correlated with IgG concentrations. Patients on ART had significantly lower free light chain concentrations, but the ratio was not significantly affected.

Conclusions This study demonstrated that free light chain concentrations were significantly correlated with markers of HIV disease severity, suggesting ongoing B cell dysfunction despite ART use. Free light chain ratio was not significantly affected.

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