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Clin Infect Dis. 2014 Nov 1;59(9):1312-21. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciu585. Epub 2014 Jul 29.

HIV-1 DNA decay dynamics in blood during more than a decade of suppressive antiretroviral therapy.

Author information

Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania.
Center for Biostatistics in AIDS Research, Harvard School of Public Health.
Massachusetts General Hospital and Ragon Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston.



Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) DNA dynamics during long-term antiretroviral therapy (ART) are not defined.


Blood mononuclear cells obtained during 7-12 years of effective ART were assayed for total HIV-1 DNA and 2-long terminal repeat (LTR) circles by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Slopes of HIV-1 DNA were estimated by participant-specific linear regressions. Plasma was assayed for residual viremia (HIV-1 RNA) by qPCR.


Thirty participants were studied. HIV-1 DNA decreased significantly from years 0-1 and 1-4 of ART with median decay slopes of -0.86 (interquartile range, -1.05, -0.59) and -0.11 (-0.17, -0.06) log10(copies/10(6) CD4+ T-cells)/year, respectively (P < .001). Decay was not significant for years 4-7 (-0.02 [-0.06, 0.02]; P = .09) or after year 7 of ART (-0.006 [-0.030, 0.015]; P = .17). All participants had detectable HIV-1 DNA after 10 years (median 439 copies/10(6) CD4+ T-cells; range: 7-2074). Pre-ART HIV-1 DNA levels were positively associated with pre-ART HIV-1 RNA levels (Spearman = 0.71, P < .001) and with HIV-1 DNA at years 4, 7, and 10 on ART (Spearman ≥ 0.75, P < .001). No associations were found (P ≥ .25) between HIV-1 DNA slopes or levels and % activated CD8+ T-cells (average during years 1-4) or residual viremia (n = 18). 2-LTR circles were detected pre-ART in 20/29 and in 8/30 participants at last follow-up.


Decay of HIV-1 DNA in blood is rapid in the first year after ART initiation (86% decline), slows during years 1-4 (23% decline/year), and subsequently plateaus. HIV-1 DNA decay is not associated with the levels of CD8+ T-cell activation or persistent viremia. The determinants of stable HIV-1 DNA persistence require further elucidation. Clinical Trials Registration. NCT00001137.


HIV-1 persistence; antiretroviral therapy; HIV-1 DNA decay; immune activation

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