Virological and immunological effects of short-course antiretroviral therapy in primary HIV infection

AIDS. 2002 Oct 18;16(15):2049-54. doi: 10.1097/00002030-200210180-00010.


Background: National and international guidelines call for the treatment of primary HIV infection (PHI) with combination antiretroviral therapy, although the ideal timing and duration of this intervention is unknown. Recent immunological studies of antiretroviral therapy on small numbers of patients with PHI have reported preservation of HIV-specific CD4 T-helper responses, ordinarily lost in the absence of intervention. We sought to investigate whether a short course of antiretroviral therapy (SCART) at PHI was sufficient to preserve HIV-specific cellular immunity.

Methods: Forty-five subjects with confirmed PHI were offered SCART at diagnosis. HIV specific cellular immune responses and virological parameters were assessed at monthly intervals.

Results: Thirty-seven of the subjects chose SCART at PHI, and achieved a plasma viral load < 50 RNA copies/ml by a median of 10 weeks (range, 4-32 weeks). Two of the 45 individuals had evidence of genotypic HIV drug resistance at baseline, and none developed new mutations following therapy. All patients who received SCART at PHI showed preservation of HIV-specific CD4 T-helper responses up to 64 weeks off SCART.

Conclusion: SCART at PHI was safe, did not induce the development of drug resistance, and appeared sufficient to preserve HIV-specific CD4 T-helper responses. However, PHI is highly heterogeneous, and a large-scale randomized trial of SCART at PHI is now needed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-HIV Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • HIV-1 / immunology
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Viral / blood
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors / administration & dosage*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • RNA, Viral
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors