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J Virol. 2018 Jun 29;92(14). pii: e00279-18. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00279-18. Print 2018 Jul 15.

Short-Term Pegylated Interferon α2a Treatment Does Not Significantly Reduce the Viral Reservoir of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected, Antiretroviral Therapy-Treated Rhesus Macaques.

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Emory Vaccine Center and Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Department of Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Emory Vaccine Center and Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA


The major obstacle to human immunodeficiency type 1 (HIV-1) eradication is a reservoir of latently infected cells that persists despite long-term antiretroviral therapy (ART) and causes rapid viral rebound if treatment is interrupted. Type I interferons are immunomodulatory cytokines that induce antiviral factors and have been evaluated for the treatment of HIV-infected individuals, resulting in moderate reduction of viremia and inconclusive data about their effect on reservoir size. Here, we assessed the potential of pegylated IFN-α2a (pIFN-α2a) to reduce the viral reservoir in simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected, ART-treated rhesus macaques (RMs). We found that pIFN-α2a treatment of animals in which virus replication is effectively suppressed with ART is safe and well tolerated, as no major clinical side effects were observed. By monitoring the cellular immune response during this intervention, we established that pIFN-α2a administration is not associated with either CD4+ T cell depletion or increased immune activation. Importantly, we found that interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) were significantly upregulated in IFN-treated RMs compared to control animals, confirming that pIFN-α2a is bioactive in vivo To evaluate the effect of pIFN-α2a administration on the viral reservoir in CD4+ T cells, we performed cell-associated proviral SIV DNA measurements in multiple tissues and assessed levels of replication-competent virus by a quantitative viral outgrowth assay (QVOA). These analyses failed to reveal any significant difference in reservoir size between IFN-treated and control animals. In summary, our data suggest that short-term type I interferon treatment in combination with suppressive ART is not sufficient to induce a significant reduction of the viral reservoir in SIV-infected RMs.IMPORTANCE The potential of type I interferons to reduce the viral reservoir has been recently studied in clinical trials in HIV-infected humans. However, given the lack of mechanistic data and the potential for safety concerns, a more comprehensive testing of IFN treatment in vivo in SIV-infected RMs is critical to provide rationale for further development of this intervention in humans. Utilizing the SIV/RM model in which virus replication is suppressed with ART, we addressed experimental limitations of previous human studies, in particular the lack of a control group and specimen sampling limited to blood. Here, we show by rigorous testing of blood and lymphoid tissues that virus replication and reservoir size were not significantly affected by pIFN-α2a treatment in SIV-infected, ART-treated RMs. This suggests that intensified and/or prolonged IFN treatment regimens, possibly in combination with other antilatency agents, are necessary to effectively purge the HIV/SIV reservoir under ART.


AIDS; HIV; SIV; antiretroviral therapy; interferons; latency; rhesus macaque; viral reservoir

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