Author(s): Sigal A, Kim JT, Balazs AB, Dekel E, Mayo A,
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Abstract Latency and ongoing replication have both been proposed to explain the drug-insensitive human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) reservoir maintained during antiretroviral therapy. Here we explore a novel mechanism for ongoing HIV replication in the face of antiretroviral drugs. We propose a model whereby multiple infections per cell lead to reduced sensitivity to drugs without requiring drug-resistant mutations, and experimentally validate the model using multiple infections per cell by cell-free HIV in the presence of the drug tenofovir. We then examine the drug sensitivity of cell-to-cell spread of HIV, a mode of HIV transmission that can lead to multiple infection events per target cell. Infections originating from cell-free virus decrease strongly in the presence of antiretrovirals tenofovir and efavirenz whereas infections involving cell-to-cell spread are markedly less sensitive to the drugs. The reduction in sensitivity is sufficient to keep multiple rounds of infection from terminating in the presence of drugs. We examine replication from cell-to-cell spread in the presence of clinical drug concentrations using a stochastic infection model and find that replication is intermittent, without substantial accumulation of mutations. If cell-to-cell spread has the same properties in vivo, it may have adverse consequences for the immune system, lead to therapy failure in individuals with risk factors, and potentially contribute to viral persistence and hence be a barrier to curing HIV infection.
This article was published in Nature
and referenced in Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals