Author(s): Jones LE, Perelson AS
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Abstract When antiretroviral therapy (ART) is administered for long periods to HIV-1-infected patients, most achieve viral loads that are "undetectable" by standard assay methods (ie, HIV-1 RNA <50 copies/mL). Despite sustaining viral loads lower than the level of detection, a number of patients experience unexplained episodes of transient viremia or viral "blips." We propose that transient activation of the immune system by infectious agents may explain these episodes of viremia. Using 2 different mathematical models, one in which blips arise because of target cell activation and subsequent infection and another in which latent cell activation generates blips, we establish a nonlinear (power law) relationship between blip amplitude and viral load (under ART) that suggest blips should be of lower amplitude, and thus harder to detect, as increasingly potent therapy is used. This effect can be more profound than is predicted by simply lowering the baseline viral load from which blips originate. Finally, we suggest that sporadic immune activation may elevate the level of chronically infected cells and replenish viral reservoirs, including the latent cell reservoir, providing a mechanism for recurrent viral blips and low levels of viremia under ART.
This article was published in J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr
and referenced in Epidemiology: Open Access