Reduction of the HIV-1-infected T-cell reservoir by immune activation treatment is dose-dependent and restricted by the potency of antiretroviral drugs

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BackgroundTreatments combining T-cell activating agents and potent antiretroviral drugs have been proposed as a possible means of reducing the reservoir of long-lived HIV-1 infected quiescent CD4 T-cells.ObjectiveTo analyse the effect of such therapies on HIV-1 dynamics and T-cell homeostasis.Design and methodsA mathematical framework describing HIV-1 dynamics and T-cell homeostasis was developed. Three patients who were kept on a particularly potent course of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) were treated with the anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody OKT3 and interleukin (IL)-2. Plasma HIV-RNA, and HIV-RNA and DNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and lymph node mononuclear cells were measured. These results and other published studies on the use of IL-2 alone were assessed using our mathematical framework.ResultsWe show that outcome of treatment is determined by the relative rates of depletion of the infected quiescent T-cell population by activation and of its replenishment through new infection. Which of these two processes dominates is critically dependent on both the potency of HAART and also the degree of T-cell activation induced. We demonstrate that high-level T-cell stimulation is likely to produce negative outcomes, both by failing to reduce viral reservoirs and by depleting the CD4 T-cell pool and disrupting CD4/CD8 T-cell homeostasis. In contrast, repeated low-level stimulation may both aid CD4 T-cell pool expansion and achieve a substantial reduction in the long-lived HIV-1 reservoir.ConclusionsOur analysis suggests that although treatment that activates T-cells can reduce the long-lived HIV-1 reservoir, caution should be used as high-level stimulation may result in a negative outcome.

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