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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jun 12;109(24):9523-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1120248109. Epub 2012 May 29.

Immediate antiviral therapy appears to restrict resting CD4+ cell HIV-1 infection without accelerating the decay of latent infection.

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Department of Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


HIV type 1 (HIV-1) persists within resting CD4(+) T cells despite antiretroviral therapy (ART). To better understand the kinetics by which resting cell infection (RCI) is established, we developed a mathematical model that accurately predicts (r = 0.65, P = 2.5 × 10(-4)) the initial frequency of RCI measured about 1 year postinfection, based on the time of ART initiation and the dynamic changes in viremia and CD4(+) T cells. In the largest cohort of patients treated during acute seronegative HIV infection (AHI) in whom RCI has been stringently quantified, we found that early ART reduced the generation of latently infected cells. Although RCI declined after the first year of ART in most acutely infected patients, there was a striking absence of decline when initial RCI frequency was less than 0.5 per million. Notably, low-level viremia was observed more frequently as RCI increased. Together these observations suggest that (i) the degree of RCI is directly related to the availability of CD4(+) T cells susceptible to HIV, whether viremia is controlled by the immune response and/or ART; and (ii) that two pools of infected resting CD4(+) T cells exist, namely, less stable cells, observable in patients in whom viremia is not well controlled in early infection, and extremely stable cells that are established despite early ART. These findings reinforce and extend the concept that new approaches will be needed to eradicate HIV infection, and, in particular, highlight the need to target the extremely small but universal, long-lived latent reservoir.

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