Semen virome of men with HIV on or off antiretroviral treatment

AIDS. 2020 May 1;34(6):827-832. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000002497.


Objectives: Improving immune status of people living with HIV through antiretroviral therapy (ART) may also reduce shedding of other viruses in semen. We characterized the seminal fluid virome of men with HIV and tested potential associations between viruses present and CD4 T-cell count, HIV viremia, and antiretroviral therapy (ART) status.

Design and methods: Metagenomics was used to enrich and sequence viral nucleic acids from the seminal fluid of 55 semen samples from 42 men living with HIV from San Francisco with a median age of 33 (IQR, 28.7-45) and median CD4 T-cell counts of 837 cells/μl (IQR, 258-1571 cells/μl). All samples were collected between 2005 and 2015, and ART status was ascertained from medical records.

Results: Anelloviruses, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and multiple genotypes of human papillomaviruses were detected. Participants shed from 0 to 4 distinct human viruses. Longitudinally collected seminal fluid samples showed changes in the viruses shed. Viruses were more frequently shed by individuals with detectable HIV viremia (43.7 vs. 15.4%, P = 0.042). A trend was seen for increased shedding by individuals who were not on ART (42.8 vs. 17.8%, P = 0.082) or with CD4 T-cell count less than 350 cells/μl (35.3 vs. 20%, P = 0.27).

Conclusion: Seminal fluid from men with HIV from San Francisco contains nucleic acids from three different DNA viral families. A greater number of viruses, particularly CMV, were shed by participants with detectable HIV viremia (18.9 vs. 0%, P = 0.022). Control of viremia through ART may lower shedding of other viruses in semen in addition to HIV.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anelloviridae / isolation & purification
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active
  • Blood / virology
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Cytomegalovirus / isolation & purification
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • DNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • Genotype
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / virology*
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • HIV-1 / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metagenomics
  • RNA, Viral
  • San Francisco
  • Semen / virology*
  • Virome*
  • Virus Shedding


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • DNA, Viral
  • RNA, Viral