Strategies to Eradicate HIV From Infected Patients: Elimination of Latent Provirus Reservoirs

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2019 Sep;76(18):3583-3600. doi: 10.1007/s00018-019-03156-8. Epub 2019 May 25.


35 years since identification of HIV as the causative agent of AIDS, and 35 million deaths associated with this disease, significant effort is now directed towards the development of potential cures. Current anti-retroviral (ART) therapies for HIV/AIDS can suppress virus replication to undetectable levels, and infected individuals can live symptom free so long as treatment is maintained. However, removal of therapy allows rapid re-emergence of virus from a highly stable reservoir of latently infected cells that exist as a barrier to elimination of the infection with current ART. Prospects of a cure for HIV infection are significantly encouraged by two serendipitous cases where individuals have entered remission following stem cell transplantation from compatible HIV-resistant donors. However, development of a routine cure that could become available to millions of infected individuals will require a means of specifically purging cells harboring latent HIV, preventing replication of latent provirus, or destruction of provirus genomes by gene editing. Elimination of latently infected cells will require a means of exposing this population, which may involve identification of a natural specific biomarker or therapeutic intervention to force their exposure by reactivation of virus expression. Accordingly, the proposed "Shock and Kill" strategy involves treatment with latency-reversing agents (LRA) to induce HIV provirus expression thus exposing these cells to killing by cellular immunity or apoptosis. Current efforts to enable this strategy are directed at developing improved combinations of LRA to produce broad and robust induction of HIV provirus and enhancing the elimination of cells where replication has been reactivated by targeted immune modulation. Alternative strategies may involve preventing re-emergence virus from latently infected cells by "Lock and Block" intervention, where transcription of provirus is inhibited to prevent virus spread or disruption of the HIV provirus genome by genome editing.

Keywords: AIDS; Anti-retroviral therapy; Cure; Genome editing; HIV; Immune modulation; Latency-reversing agents; Lock and block; Shock and kill; Transcriptional regulation; Virus latency.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Disease Reservoirs / virology*
  • Gene Editing
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV Infections / therapy*
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunotherapy
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Virus Latency


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents
  • Recombinant Proteins