Background: Persistent infection in resting CD4+ T cells prevents eradication of HIV-1. Since the chromatin remodeling enzyme histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1) maintains latency of integrated HIV, we tested the ability of the HDAC inhibitor valproic acid to deplete persistent, latent infection in resting CD4+ T cells.
Procedures: We did a proof-of-concept study in four volunteers infected with HIV and on highly-active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). After intensifying the effect of HAART with subcutaneous enfuvirtide 90 mug twice daily for 4-6 weeks to prevent the spread of HIV, we added oral valproic acid 500-750 mg twice daily to their treatment regimen for 3 months. We quantified latent infection of resting CD4+ T cells before and after augmented treatment by limiting-dilution culture of resting CD4+ T cells after ex-vivo activation.
Findings: The frequency of resting cell infection was stable before addition of enfuvirtide and valproic acid, but declined thereafter. This decline was significant in three of four patients (mean reduction 75%, range 68% to >84%). Patients had slight reactions to enfuvirtide at the injection site, but otherwise tolerated treatment well.
Interpretation: Combination therapy with an HDAC inhibitor and intensified HAART safely accelerates clearance of HIV from resting CD4+ T cells in vivo, suggesting a new and practical approach to eliminate HIV infection in this persistent reservoir. This finding, though not definitive, suggests that new approaches will allow the cure of HIV in the future.