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Annu Rev Med. 2002;53:557-93.

The challenge of viral reservoirs in HIV-1 infection.

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Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205; e-mail:


A viral reservoir is a cell type or anatomical site in association with which a replication-competent form of the virus accumulates and persists with more stable kinetic properties than the main pool of actively replicating virus. This article reviews several cell types and anatomical sites proposed as potential reservoirs for HIV-1. It is now clear that HIV-1 persists in a small reservoir of latently infected resting memory CD4(+) T cells, which shows minimal decay even in patients on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). The persistence of virus in this reservoir is consistent with the biology of these cells and the long-term persistence of immunologic memory. The viral replication that continues in patients on suppressive HAART may also contribute to the stability of this reservoir. There may be other reservoirs, but the latent reservoir in resting CD4(+) T cells appears to be sufficient to guarantee lifetime persistence of HIV-1 in the majority of patients on current HAART regimens, and unless new approaches are developed, eradication will not be possible. The clinical implications of this and other HIV-1 reservoirs are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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