What can characterization of cerebrospinal fluid escape populations teach us about viral reservoirs in the central nervous system?


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Abstract

Objective:To review the evidence that CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) escape populations are produced by viral reservoirs in the central nervous system (CNS).Design:CSF escape is a rare phenomenon in which individuals on suppressive ART have well controlled systemic infections with elevated levels of HIV-1 RNA in their CSF. However, the rarity of CSF escape coupled with relatively low CSF viral loads has impeded detailed analyses of these populations. Here, and in a previous study, we performed genetic and phenotypic assessments of CSF escape populations to determine whether CSF escape is produced by CNS reservoirs or by cells trafficking through the CNS.Methods:We report HIV-1 viral loads in the CSF and blood plasma of four individuals with CSF escape (one new example and three previously described examples). We performed phylogenetic analyses of the viral env gene to evaluate diversity within the CSF escape populations and performed entry analyses to determine whether Env proteins were adapted to entering macrophage/microglia.Results:Two individuals had CSF escape produced by CNS reservoirs. In contrast, the remaining two cases were likely because of transient viral production from cells migrating into the CNS and releasing virus.Conclusion:Together our analyses indicate that replication-competent HIV-1 can persist in the CNS during ART, but that not all cases of CSF escape are produced by CNS reservoirs. Our results also suggest that both CD4+ T cells and macrophage/microglia can serve as persistent viral reservoirs in the CNS.

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