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CD4 & CD8 Percentages
May 30, 2004

Dear Doctors,

Many thanks for your excellent and informative site - very much appreciated.

Please could you explain the the CD4 & CD8 percentages given with the counts. My lab is in the Uk and little, if any, importance seems to be placed on these percentage figures. Are they an accurate & indicative measure of immune system's health?

I read that according to the US Centre for Disease Control a person with a CD4 percentage less than 14% is considered to have AIDS. In such a case is their CD4 cell count and VL irrelevant?

Many Thanks for your help.

Peter (in Hong Kong)

Response from Dr. Young

Peter, thank you for your question. It's rewarding to this writer to know that we're reaching readers in Hong Kong.

CD cell percentages are another metric of immune cell levels. Since total cell counts fluctuate, the percentage of the total population that is CD4 or CD8 tends to be more constant, and hence, less variable from day to day. I use both absolute and percentage CD4 counts in assessing my patients' health, and when there's discordance between the two, I weigh the CD4% as a more valuable (and as we've seen above, less variable) measure of immune health.

In so much as the decision to start therapy is concerned, a CD4% less than 14 indicates a strong need to initate antiretroviral therapy; though I'd hardly call the absolute count or viral load as irrelevant.

Thanks for reading, BY


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