Worldwide, nearly two million children are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), with breastfeeding accounting for the majority of contemporary HIV transmissions. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has reduced HIV-related morbidity and mortality but is not curative. The main barrier to a cure is persistence of latent HIV in long-lived reservoirs. However, our understanding of the cellular and anatomic sources of the HIV reservoir during infancy and childhood is limited. Here, we developed a pediatric model of ART suppression in orally simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected rhesus macaque (RM) infants, with measurement of virus persistence in blood and tissues after 6 to 9 months of ART. Cross-sectional analyses were conducted to compare SIV RNA and DNA levels in adult and infant RMs naive to treatment and on ART. We demonstrate efficient viral suppression following ART initiation in SIV-infected RM infants with sustained undetectable plasma viral loads in the setting of heterogeneous penetration of ART into lymphoid and gastrointestinal tissues and low drug levels in the brain. We further show reduction in SIV RNA and DNA on ART in lymphoid tissues of both infant and adult RMs but stable (albeit low) levels of SIV RNA and DNA in the brains of viremic and ART-suppressed infants. Finally, we report a large contribution of naive CD4+ T cells to the total CD4 reservoir of SIV in blood and lymph nodes of ART-suppressed RM infants that differs from what we show in adults. These results reveal important aspects of HIV/SIV persistence in infants and provide insight into strategic targets for cure interventions in a pediatric population.IMPORTANCE While antiretroviral therapy (ART) can reduce HIV replication, the virus cannot be eradicated from an infected individual, and our incomplete understanding of HIV persistence in reservoirs greatly complicates the generation of a cure for HIV infection. Given the immaturity of the infant immune system, it is critically important to study HIV reservoirs specifically in this population. Here, we established a pediatric animal model to simulate breastfeeding transmission and study SIV reservoirs in rhesus macaque (RM) infants. Our study demonstrates that ART can be safely administered to infant RMs for prolonged periods and that it efficiently controls viral replication in this model. SIV persistence was shown in blood and tissues, with similar anatomic distributions of SIV reservoirs in infant and adult RMs. However, in the peripheral blood and lymph nodes, a greater contribution of the naive CD4+ T cells to the SIV reservoir was observed in infants than in adults.
Keywords: SIV; antiretroviral therapy; infants; rhesus macaques.
Copyright © 2018 American Society for Microbiology.