HIV transmission biology: translation for HIV prevention


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Abstract

Rigorous testing of new HIV-prevention strategies is a time-consuming and expensive undertaking. Thus, making well informed decisions on which candidate-prevention approaches are most likely to provide the most benefit is critical to appropriately prioritizing clinical testing. In the case of biological interventions, the decision to test a given prevention approach in human trials rests largely on evidence of protection in preclinical studies. The ability of preclinical studies to predict efficacy in humans may depend on how well the model recapitulates key biological features of HIV transmission relevant to the question at hand. Here, we review our current understanding of the biology of HIV transmission based on data from animal models, cell culture, and viral sequence analysis from human infection. We summarize studies of the bottleneck in viral transmission; the characteristics of transmitted viruses; the establishment of infection; and the contribution of cell-free and cell-associated virus. We seek to highlight the implications of HIV-transmission biology for development of prevention interventions, and to discuss the limitations of existing preclinical models.

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