Factors Associated With the Control of Viral Replication and Virologic Breakthrough in a Recently Infected HIV-1 Controller

EBioMedicine. 2017 Feb;16:141-149. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2017.01.034. Epub 2017 Jan 26.


HIV-1 controllers are patients who control HIV-1 viral replication without antiretroviral therapy. Control is achieved very early in the course of infection, but the mechanisms through which viral replication is restricted are not fully understood. We describe a patient who presented with acute HIV-1 infection and was found to have an HIV-1 RNA level of <100copies/mL. She did not have any known protective HLA alleles, but significant immune activation of CD8+ T cells and natural killer (NK) cells was present, and both cell types inhibited viral replication. Virus cultured from this patient replicated as well in vitro as virus isolated from her partner, a patient with AIDS who was the source of transmission. Virologic breakthrough occurred 9months after her initial presentation and was associated with an increase in CD4+ T cell activation levels and a significant decrease in NK cell inhibitory capacity. Remarkably, CD8+ T cell inhibitory capacity was preserved and there were no new escape mutations in targeted Gag epitopes. These findings suggest that fully replication-competent virus can be controlled in acute HIV-1 infection in some patients without protective HLA alleles and that NK cell responses may contribute to this early control of viral replication.

Keywords: CD8+ T cells; HIV controllers; HIV-1; NK cells; Transmission pair.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • HIV-1 / immunology*
  • HIV-1 / physiology
  • HLA Antigens / genetics
  • HLA Antigens / immunology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Time Factors
  • Viral Load / genetics
  • Viral Load / immunology
  • Virus Replication / genetics
  • Virus Replication / immunology*


  • HLA Antigens