Gold drug auranofin restricts the viral reservoir in the monkey AIDS model and induces containment of viral load following ART suspension

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Objectives:A small pool of long-lived memory CD4+ T cells harboring the retroviral genome is one main obstacle to HIV eradication. We tested the impact of the gold compound, auranofin, on phenotype and viability of CD4+ T cells in vitro, and on persistence of lentiviral reservoir cells in vivo.Design:In-vitro and in-vivo study. The pro-differentiating effect of auranofin was investigated in human primary CD4+ T cells, and its capacity to deplete the viral DNA (vDNA) reservoir was tested in a pilot study involving six SIVmac251-infected macaques with viral loads stably suppressed by antiretroviral therapy (ART) (tenofovir/emtricitabine/raltegravir). The study was then amplified by intensifying ART using darunavir/r and including controls under intensified ART alone. All therapies were eventually suspended and viro-immunological parameters were monitored over time.Methods:Cell subpopulations were quantitated by flow cytometry following proper hematological analyses. Viral load and cell-associated vDNA were quantitated by Taqman real-time PCR.Results:In naïve, central memory and transitional memory CD4+ T cells, auranofin induced both phenotype changes and cell death which were more pronounced in the memory compartment. In the pilot study in vivo, auranofin transiently decreased the cell-associated vDNA reservoir in peripheral blood. When ART was intensified, a sustained decrease in vDNA was observed only in auranofin-treated monkeys but not in controls treated with intensified ART alone. After therapy suspension, only monkeys that had received auranofin showed a deferred and subsequently blunted viral load rebound.Conclusion:These findings represent a first step towards a remission of primate lentiviral infections.

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