HIV-1 RNA and HIV-1 DNA persistence during suppressive ART with PI-based or nevirapine-based regimens

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Whether ART regimens differ in their propensity to allow persistent HIV-1 detection remains unclear. To investigate this, we performed a cross-sectional study to characterize HIV-1 persistence in peripheral blood during suppressive therapy with NRTIs plus a PI or nevirapine.


Residual plasma HIV-1 RNA was quantified by real-time PCR. Cell-associated proviral total HIV-1 DNA, unspliced and multiply spliced HIV-1 RNA and 2-long terminal repeat (2-LTR) circles were quantified by digital PCR.


Comparing PI with nevirapine recipients, residual plasma HIV-1 RNA detection rates were 47/80 (58.8%) versus 37/81 (45.7%), with median (IQR) levels of 4 (3–8) versus 4 (3–7) copies/mL (P = 0.207); detection was less likely with longer duration of suppressive ART (P = 0.020), independently of treatment. HIV-1 DNA was detected in all patients, with median levels of 2.3 (IQR 2.0–2.7) versus 2.5 (IQR 2.1–2.7) log10 copies/106 PBMCs, respectively; HIV-1 DNA levels were associated with pre-ART viral load (P = 0.004) and with residual HIV-1 RNA (P = 0.034), unspliced HIV-1 RNA (P = 0.001) and 2-LTR circles (P = 0.005), independently of treatment.


No significant differences were revealed in levels of residual plasma HIV-1 RNA, total HIV-1 DNA or intracellular markers of ongoing virus replication (unspliced and multiply spliced HIV-1 RNA and 2-LTR circles) between treatment groups.

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