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J Virus Erad. 2017 Apr 1;3(2):85-89.

A CD3/CD28 microbead-based HIV-1 viral outgrowth assay.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA.
Center for AIDS Research, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.



Latently infected resting CD4 T cells represent a major barrier to HIV-1 eradication efforts. The standard assays used for measuring this reservoir induce activation of resting CD4 T cells with either phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) with irradiated feeder cells, or with anti-CD3 antibodies. We designed a study to compare the sensitivity of a new assay (based on the stimulation of CD4 T cells with anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 coated microbeads) with that of the traditional PHA- and feeder-based viral outgrowth assay.


Resting CD4 T cells from 10 HIV-1-infected patients on suppressive combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) regimens were cultured in the traditional PHA/feeders viral outgrowth assay and the new CD3/CD28 bead-based assay. Flow cytometry was used to assess the kinetics of activation of resting CD4 T cells in the two different assays.


There was no significant difference in the sensitivity of the two assays. The median frequency of latently infected cells was 0.83 infectious units per million (IUPM) for the PHA/feeders assay and 0.54 IUPM with the CD3/CD28 bead-based assay. However, while virus was obtained from all 10 patients with the traditional PHA/feeders outgrowth assay, no virus was obtained from two of 10 patients with the novel anti-CD3/CD28 bead-based viral outgrowth assay (IUPM < 0.02).


The new CD3/CD28 bead-based assay has comparable sensitivity to the PHA/feeders assay and does not require the addition of feeders, making it a simpler and less labour-intensive alternative to the standard PHA/feeders-based assay.


HIV-1; latency; viral outgrowth assay


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