Early exposure to broadly neutralizing antibodies may trigger a dynamical switch from progressive disease to lasting control of SHIV infection

PLoS Comput Biol. 2020 Aug 20;16(8):e1008064. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008064. eCollection 2020 Aug.


Antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV-1 infection is life-long. Stopping therapy typically leads to the reignition of infection and progressive disease. In a major breakthrough, recent studies have shown that early initiation of ART can lead to sustained post-treatment control of viremia, raising hopes of long-term HIV-1 remission. ART, however, elicits post-treatment control in a small fraction of individuals treated. Strikingly, passive immunization with broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) of HIV-1 early in infection was found recently to elicit long-term control in a majority of SHIV-infected macaques, suggesting that HIV-1 remission may be more widely achievable. The mechanisms underlying the control elicited by bNAb therapy, however, remain unclear. Untreated infection typically leads to progressive disease. We hypothesized that viremic control represents an alternative but rarely realized outcome of the infection and that early bNAb therapy triggers a dynamical switch to this outcome. To test this hypothesis, we constructed a model of viral dynamics with bNAb therapy and applied it to analyse clinical data. The model fit quantitatively the complex longitudinal viral load data from macaques that achieved lasting control. The model predicted, consistently with our hypothesis, that the underlying system exhibited bistability, indicating two potential outcomes of infection. The first had high viremia, weak cytotoxic effector responses, and high effector exhaustion, marking progressive disease. The second had low viremia, strong effector responses, and low effector exhaustion, indicating lasting viremic control. Further, model predictions suggest that early bNAb therapy elicited lasting control via pleiotropic effects. bNAb therapy lowers viremia, which would also limit immune exhaustion. Simultaneously, it can improve effector stimulation via cross-presentation. Consequently, viremia may resurge post-therapy, but would encounter a primed effector population and eventually get controlled. ART suppresses viremia but does not enhance effector stimulation, explaining its limited ability to elicit post-treatment control relative to bNAb therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies / immunology*
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Simian Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / immunology*
  • Simian Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / virology
  • Viral Load
  • Viremia / immunology


  • Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance Senior Fellowship IA/S/14/1/501307 (NMD) (https://www.indiaalliance.org/). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.