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Arch Intern Med. 2000 Nov 27;160(21):3286-93.

Plasma viral load in HIV-1 and HIV-2 singly and dually infected individuals in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa: significantly lower plasma virus set point in HIV-2 infection than in HIV-1 infection.

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Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control, SE-17182 Solna, Sweden.



The intriguing differences in the natural course, transmissibility, and epidemiological characteristics of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and HIV-2 are still insufficiently explained. Differences in plasma viral load are an obvious possibility, but this has been difficult to investigate because of the lack of tests for HIV-2 RNA.


To compare plasma HIV RNA load between individuals infected with HIV-1 and HIV-2 in Guinea-Bissau, a West African country with high prevalence and incidence of HIV-1 and HIV-2 infection.


A total of 102 participants were recruited from ongoing prospective cohort studies. These included 19 HIV-1 and 29 HIV-2 seroincident cases tested at a median of less than 2 years after seroconversion as well as seroprevalent cases with single (9 HIV-1 cases and 31 HIV-2 cases) or dual (n = 14) infections. Plasma HIV RNA levels were determined by a commercial HIV-1 assay and an experimental HIV-2 assay based on the same principles.


The viral set point, ie, the semi-equilibrium reached after seronconversion, was 28-fold lower in recent HIV-2 seroconverters than in recent HIV-1 seroconverters (median, 2500 and 70,000 RNA copies per milliliter, respectively; P<. 001). This difference appeared to persist to symptomatic stages of the diseases. Dually infected individuals had lower plasma HIV-1 RNA levels than singly infected individuals.


The differences between HIV-1 and HIV-2 infection are likely to be caused by differences in plasma viral set point and load, but the mechanisms through which HIV-2 infection is contained to a higher degree than HIV-1 remain to be identified. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160:3286-3293.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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