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J Virol. 2007 May;81(10):5325-30. Epub 2007 Feb 28.

Direct evidence of lower viral replication rates in vivo in human immunodeficiency virus type 2 (HIV-2) infection than in HIV-1 infection.

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Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Harvard School of Public Health, 651 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Studies have shown that human immunodeficiency virus type 2 (HIV-2) is less pathogenic than HIV-1, with a lower rate of disease progression. Similarly, plasma viral loads are lower in HIV-2 infection, suggesting that HIV-2 replication is restricted in vivo in comparison to that of HIV-1. However, to date, in vivo studies characterizing replication intermediates in the viral life cycle of HIV-2 have been limited. In order to test the hypothesis that HIV-2 has a lower replication rate in vivo than HIV-1 does, we quantified total viral DNA, integrated proviral DNA, cell-associated viral mRNA, and plasma viral loads in peripheral blood samples from groups of therapy-naïve HIV-1-infected (n = 21) and HIV-2-infected (n = 18) individuals from Dakar, Senegal, with CD4(+) T-cell counts of >200/microl. Consistent with our previous findings, total viral DNA loads were similar between HIV-1 and HIV-2 and plasma viral loads were higher among HIV-1-infected individuals. Proportions of DNA in the integrated form were also similar between these viruses. In contrast, levels of viral mRNA were lower in HIV-2 infection. Our study indicates that HIV-2 is able to establish a stable, integrated proviral infection in vivo, but that accumulation of viral mRNA is attenuated in HIV-2 infection relative to that in HIV-1 infection. The differences in viral mRNA are consistent with the differences in plasma viral loads between HIV-1 and HIV-2 and suggest that lower plasma viral loads, and possibly the attenuated pathogenesis of HIV-2, can be explained by lower rates of viral replication in vivo.

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