HIV-1 intermittent viraemia in patients treated by non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor-based regimen

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It has been demonstrated that, in patients treated by protease-inhibitor-based regimen, intermittent viraemia occurred frequently and was associated with higher concentrations of residual replication but not with virological failure. Risk factors associated with intermittent viraemia and its impact in patients treated by non-nucleoside-reverse-transcriptase-inhibitor-based (NNRTI) regimen need to be evaluated.


We analyzed the occurrence of blips (one HIV-1 RNA > 50 copies/ml with a subsequent value < 50 copies/ml), the level of these blips (between 3 and 50 copies/ml) and their effect on CD4 cell count and the occurrence of virological failure in 43 patients with stable suppression of HIV-1 plasma viraemia (< 50 copies/ml) under NNRTI-based therapy.


Eight out of 43 patients had one episode of blips during the follow-up (median = 350 copies/ml). Comparing patients with and without blips, the median level of HIV-1 RNA at baseline was 7.5 versus 3 copies/ml (P = 0.008), respectively. Patients with blips had a significantly lower CD4 cell count after 12 and 18 months than the others. Plasma concentrations of NNRTI before, during, and after the blips were adequate. In addition, the occurrence of blips was not associated with virological failure.


These results suggest that blips may reflect ongoing viraemia of below 50 copies/ml and can impair the CD4 cell count recovery under an NNRTI regimen. The impairment of CD4 cell count recovery seems to be affected more by the occurrence of blips than by the level of viraemia (< 50 copies/ml) itself. Nevertheless, despite a tight genetic barrier for resistance with NNRTI drugs, no virologic failure occurred during the follow-up.

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