Low-level plasma HIVs in patients on prolonged suppressive highly active antiretroviral therapy are produced mostly by cells other than CD4 T-cells

Gautam K. Sahu, David Paar, Simon D W Frost, Melissa Smith-Phillips, Scott Weaver, Miles W. Cloyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

44 Scopus citations


The cellular source(s) and the clinical significance of persistent low-level viremia, below 50 HIV RNA copies per ml of plasma, achieved in many patients with high adherence to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) remain unclear. Also, it is not clear if residual plasma HIVs during HAART can become predominant populations in the rebounding plasma viral loads after therapy interruption. Since, different HIV quasispecies tend to compartmentalize in various cell types and tissue locations in patients during chronic infection, the phylogenetic relationships between HIV sequences amplified from residual plasma viruses and CD4 T cells of five patients on long-term suppressive therapy were examined. Three of these patients stopped therapy voluntarily for 3 weeks, but only one of them demonstrated viral load rebound in plasma. In phylogenetic analyses, the residual plasma viruses were found to be distinct genetically from the majority of CD4 T cell-associated virus populations in four of five patients. The compartmental analyses revealed that in all patients, plasma- and CD4 T cell-derived viral sequences were compartmentalized separately. Interestingly, the plasma sequences obtained before and after HAART-off in two patients were produced apparently from the same compartment, which was different from the circulating CD4 T cell-compartment. These results suggest the possibility that residual plasma viruses in patients on long-term suppressive HAART may be produced persistently from a cellular source yet tobe identified, and are capable of spreading quickly in vivo, accounting for the rapid rebound of viral loads in plasma after therapy interruption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-15
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Medical Virology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009



  • HAART-interruption
  • HIV+ patients
  • Residual plasma viral loads
  • Suppressive therapy
  • Virus compartmentalization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases

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