Sustained reduction of viral replication can be achieved in HIV infected patients after treatment with combinations of drugs (HAART) that inhibit the viral reverse transcriptase, and protease enzymes. However, replication competent virus can still be recovered from latently infected resting memory CD4+ T-cell lymphocytes. Moreover, ”covert“ virus replication has been demonstrated in patients who experienced reductions in plasma viremia to levels below the limit of detection of the most sensitive PCR assays. In most studies, preferential attention has been given to latent resting CD4+ T-lymphocytes as a source of HIV persistence. However, insufficient suppression of HIV replication could also lead to viral re-emergence after HAART interruption. In addition to CD4+ T- lymphocytes, other host cells such as long-lived resident macrophages or recently infected blood monocytes could also contribute to maintain persistent HIV replication after HAART. Establishing the origin of re-emerging HIV in patients under HAART upon treatment interruption is important to design optimal treatment schemes. Therapeutic strategies aimed at reducing the number of latently infected cells involve immune activation with IL-2, or other stimulatory factors, in the presence of antiretroviral drugs. Elimination of replication-competent virus would require intensification of HAART, or the use of antiretroviral drugs achieving an effective concentration at the site of HIV replication. In this review the mechanisms of HIV persistence and the methods that can be used to distinguish latent from covert HIV replication in different cell types will be discussed.
Keywords: hiv, 1 reservoirs, haart, hivc latency, hiv persistence, cryptic replication
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