HIV-1 viral load blips are of limited clinical significance

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Many patients on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) who achieve undetectable HIV-1 RNA levels experience transient episodes of detectable viraemia or blips, suggesting there is incomplete suppression of viral replication. This raises concern that drug resistance mutations could develop and cause eventual treatment failure. However, data from recent studies indicate that most blips are actually random biological and statistical variations around a mean viral load below detectable levels (<50 copies/mL) or due to false elevations of viral load from laboratory processing artefacts. Blips are not typically associated with the development of resistance mutations and most importantly are not associated with virological or clinical failure of previously adequate HAART.

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