Objective: To reconstitute immune responses capable of eliminating infected cells and suppressing viral load during chronic retroviral infection.
Design: : A topical, DNA-based therapeutic immunization (DermaVir) was designed to express most of the regulatory and structural viral genes in dendritic cells.
Methods: DermaVir alone and in combination with antiretroviral drugs was tested in chronically SIV-infected macaques.
Results: DermaVir provided virological, immunological and clinical benefit for SIV-infected macaques during chronic infection and AIDS. In combination with antiretroviral drugs, DermaVir augmented SIV-specific T-cell responses and enhanced control of viral load rebound during treatment interruptions.
Conclusions: The results indicate the feasibility of therapeutic immunization even in immune compromised hosts, and suggest that DermaVir can complement antiretroviral drugs to sustain suppression of HIV-1 replication.