Measuring the Success of HIV-1 Cure Strategies

Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2020 Apr 7:10:134. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2020.00134. eCollection 2020.


HIV-1 eradication strategies aim to achieve viral remission in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (ART). The development of an HIV-1 cure remains challenging due to the latent reservoir (LR): long-lived CD4 T cells that harbor transcriptionally silent HIV-1 provirus. The LR is stable despite years of suppressive ART and is the source of rebound viremia following therapy interruption. Cure strategies such as "shock and kill" aim to eliminate or reduce the LR by reversing latency, exposing the infected cells to clearance via the immune response or the viral cytopathic effect. Alternative strategies include therapeutic vaccination, which aims to prime the immune response to facilitate control of the virus in the absence of ART. Despite promising advances, these strategies have been unable to significantly reduce the LR or increase the time to viral rebound but have provided invaluable insight in the field of HIV-1 eradication. The development and assessment of an HIV-1 cure requires robust assays that can measure the LR with sufficient sensitivity to detect changes that may occur following treatment. The viral outgrowth assay (VOA) is considered the gold standard method for LR quantification due to its ability to distinguish intact and defective provirus. However, the VOA is time consuming and resource intensive, therefore several alternative assays have been developed to bridge the gap between practicality and accuracy. Whilst a cure for HIV-1 infection remains elusive, recent advances in our understanding of the LR and methods for its eradication have offered renewed hope regarding achieving ART free viral remission.

Keywords: DNA/RNA quantification; HIV-1; latency; latent reservoir; persistence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • HIV-1* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Viremia
  • Virus Latency