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AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 1991 Apr;7(4):361-7.

Frequent detection of HIV-1-specific mRNAs in infected individuals suggests ongoing active viral expression in all stages of disease.

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Laboratory of Immunoregulation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.


It has been shown that only a small fraction of CD4+ T cells are infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) in vivo, particularly early in the course of infection. An even smaller proportion of cells have been shown to be expressing virus. Recent studies suggest that plasma viremia in asymptomatic HIV-infected individuals, representing active viral replication, is more common than was previously believed (range 23-100% of patients). To determine the in vivo state of HIV expression, samples of peripheral blood of 49 HIV-infected individuals at all stages of disease were examined. All subjects were positive for viral DNA by standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and a modified PCR was utilized to detect HIV-specific mRNAs (gag, major splice junction, env, and tat/rev). Patient's plasma was also assayed for p24 antigen and viremia. The results were as follows: (formula: see text) Overall, the findings suggest that active viral expression occurs at all stages of HIV infection. In particular, the presence of gag mRNA was determined in only 2 of 14 patients with T4% greater than 30% but in 20 of 35 patients with T4% less than or equal to 30% (p less than 0.05), demonstrating a direct association between the presence of message for a structural protein, and more advanced immunosuppression. Determination of the expression of certain HIV-specific messages from within a patient's cells adds a new dimension to understanding the pathogenesis of HIV infection. The presence of HIV-specific mRNAs, and in particular gag message, in many healthy seropositives may further argue for early initiation of antiviral therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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