HIV-1 is rarely detected in blood and colon myeloid cells during viral-suppressive antiretroviral therapy

AIDS. 2019 Jul 1;33(8):1293-1306. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000002195.


Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the contribution of blood and colon myeloid cells to HIV persistence during antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Design: Leukapheresis was collected from HIV-infected individuals with undetectable plasma viral load during ART (HIV + ART; n = 15) and viremics untreated (HIV+; n = 6). Rectal sigmoid biopsies were collected from n = 8 HIV+ART.

Methods: Myeloid cells (total monocytes (Mo), CD16/CD16 Mo, CD1c dendritic cells) and CD4 T cells were isolated by magnetic-activated cell sorting (MACS) and/or fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) from peripheral blood. Matched myeloid and CCR6CD4 T cells were isolated from blood and rectal biopsies by FACS. Levels of early (RU5 primers), late (Gag primers) and/or integrated HIV-DNA (Alu/HIV primers) were quantified by nested real-time PCR. Replication-competent HIV was amplified by co-culturing cells from HIV-positive individuals with CD3/CD28-activated CD4 T cells from uninfected donors.

Results: Early/late but not integrated HIV reverse transcripts were detected in blood myeloid subsets of four out of 10 HIV+ART; in contrast, integrated HIV-DNA was exclusively detected in CD4 T cells. In rectal biopsies, late HIV reverse transcripts were detected in myeloid cells and CCR6CD4 T cells from one out of eight and seven out of eight HIV+ART individuals, respectively. Replication-competent HIV was outgrown from CD4 T cells but not from myeloid of untreated/ART-treated HIV-positive individuals.

Conclusion: In contrast to CD4 T cells, blood and colon myeloid cells carry detectable HIV only in a small fraction of HIV+ART individuals. This is consistent with the documented resistance of Mo to HIV infection and the rapid turnover of Mo-derived macrophages in the colon. Future assessment of multiple lymphoid and nonlymphoid tissues is required to include/exclude myeloid cells as relevant HIV reservoirs during ART.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Blood Cells / virology*
  • Colon, Sigmoid / virology*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • HIV-1 / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myeloid Cells / virology*
  • Sustained Virologic Response*
  • Viral Load
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents