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AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2004 Nov;20(11):1196-209.

Persistent HIV type 1 infection in semen and blood compartments in patients after long-term potent antiretroviral therapy.

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Department of Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, USA.


HIV-1 RNA levels in semen and blood compartments decrease below detection limits during highly active antiretroviral therapy. Despite these therapeutic effects, it is clear that persistent, latent HIV-1 reservoirs are capable of rebounding in the absence of drug treatment or by evolution of escape mutants remain. The current study was designed to examine the presence of latent virus in semen and blood compartments and its evolution following potent combination therapy with indinavir (protease inhibitor) and efavirenz [nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitor]. Using an ultrasensitive in situ hybridization assay HIV-1 mRNA was detected in cultured seminal and blood mononuclear cells in all patients up to 1789 days posttherapy. Higher levels of HIV-1 mRNA were consistently detected in seminal mononuclear cells as compared to peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) in all time points analyzed posttherapy. Analysis of viral RNA from cultured PBMC before and after therapy displayed no evidence of therapy-induced drug resistance in the viral polymerase gene in the majority of patients. However, distinct envelope populations were detected in these viral RNA populations following therapy, indicating possible selection of quasispecies. The observed ongoing replication and evolution in the PBMC viral envelope sequences likely occurred in the seminal compartment HIV populations, given that the seminal cells showed the ability to express HIV-1 mRNA following cultivation. This together with our previous studies (Gupta P, et al.: J Infect Dis 2000;182:79-87) suggest that the genital and blood compartments likely serve as distinct reservoirs harboring latent HIV-1 during prolonged drug therapy.

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