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J Hum Virol. 1998 Nov-Dec;1(7):457-68.

Low peripheral blood viral HIV-2 RNA in individuals with high CD4 percentage differentiates HIV-2 from HIV-1 infection.

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Department of Virology, Windeyer Institute of Medical Sciences, University College London Medical School, U.K.



To elucidate why the virulence of HIV-1 and HIV-2 infections differ in West African populations.


Peripheral blood plasma virion RNA and cellular proviral DNA levels were measured in a cross-section of 59 HIV-1 and 49 HIV-2 singly infected individuals representing all stages of infection in The Gambia, West Africa. Novel reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assays specific and sensitive for virus quantification of non-clade B HIV-1 and HIV-2 infections were used.


HIV-1 and HIV-2 proviral and plasma RNA levels were inversely correlated with CD4+ count for both infections with cellular proviral load similar at each stage of infection. Critically, up to three-fourths of HIV-2-infected individuals with high CD4 percentages (> 28%) had undetectable (< 500 copies/mL) levels of peripheral blood HIV-2 RNA in contrast to HIV-1-infected individuals who had readily detectable plasma virus at all stages of infection (P < .0001). Plasma RNA levels were similar in the intermediate and end stages of infection, indicating similar replication potential for both viruses. In the cross-section of HIV-1- and HIV-2-infected patients studied, the data indicate a wider dynamic range of HIV-2 RNA in vivo compared with HIV-1.


Low levels of HIV-2 replication and virion expression characterize individuals with high CD4+ lymphocyte counts, suggesting that a very different dynamic equilibrium exists between virus and host for HIV-2 compared with HIV-1. By analogy with HIV-1, our data implicate a considerably lower turnover of HIV-2 virion RNA in vivo with a markedly reduced production of infectious genomes in individuals during the subclinical phase of infection.


The lower levels of virion expression of HIV-2 infections in vivo are compatible with observed differences in the natural history of HIV-1 and HIV-2 infections, relating to overall differences in the pathogenesis and disease progression of the two infections.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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