Plasma viraemia in seronegative HIV-1-infected individuals

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It has been reported that the period of latency between HIV-1 infection and the production of antibodies against the virus is sometimes prolonged for >6 months. However, the data supporting this are still controversial and it is not known whether these individuals are actually infectious, especially through body fluids. We have performed a prospective study of 65 high-risk HIV-1-antibody-negative individuals who were followed-up for a period of at least 1 year. Twelve of these individuals were shown by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to be carriers of HIV-1 proviral sequences. The virus was isolated from lymphocytes in five out of 10 PCR-positive subjects and from cell-free plasma in two. Our data indicate that in some cases delayed seroconversions may be associated with productive infection, suggesting that mechanism(s) other than viral latency may be responsible for the absence of antibody responses to HIV-1 proteins.

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