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Anti-HIV Antibody Responses and the HIV Reservoir Size during Antiretroviral Therapy.

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A major challenge to HIV eradication strategies is the lack of an accurate measurement of the total burden of replication-competent HIV (the "reservoir"). We assessed the association of anti-HIV antibody responses and the estimated size of the reservoir during antiretroviral therapy (ART).


We evaluated anti-HIV antibody profiles using luciferase immunoprecipitation systems (LIPS) assay in relation to several blood-based HIV reservoir measures: total and 2-LTR DNA (rtPCR or droplet digital PCR); integrated DNA (Alu PCR); unspliced RNA (rtPCR), multiply-spliced RNA (TILDA), residual plasma HIV RNA (single copy PCR), and replication-competent virus (outgrowth assay). We also assessed total HIV DNA and RNA in gut-associated lymphoid tissue (rtPCR). Spearman correlations and linear regressions were performed using log-transformed blood- or tissue-based reservoir measurements as predictors and log-transformed antibody levels as outcome variables.


Among 51 chronically HIV-infected ART-suppressed participants (median age = 57, nadir CD4+ count = 196 cells/mm3, ART duration = 9 years), the most statistically significant associations were between antibody responses to integrase and HIV RNA in gut-associated lymphoid tissue (1.17 fold-increase per two-fold RNA increase, P = 0.004) and between antibody responses to matrix and integrated HIV DNA in resting CD4+ T cells (0.35 fold-decrease per two-fold DNA increase, P = 0.003). However, these associations were not statistically significant after a stringent Bonferroni-adjustment of P<0.00045. Multivariate models including age and duration of ART did not markedly alter results.


Our findings suggest that anti-HIV antibody responses may reflect the size of the HIV reservoir during chronic treated HIV disease, possibly via antigen recognition in reservoir sites. Larger, prospective studies are needed to validate the utility of antibody levels as a measure of the total body burden of HIV during treatment.

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