HIV Immunocapture Reveals Particles Expressed in Semen under INSTI-based Therapy are Largely Myeloid Cell-Derived and Disparate from Circulating Provirus

J Infect Dis. 2024 Feb 13:jiae073. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiae073. Online ahead of print.


As use of HIV integrase strand transfer inhibitors (INSTI) increases and formulations are being developed for maintenance therapies and chemoprophylaxis, assessing virus suppression under INSTI-based regimens in prevention-relevant biologic compartments, such as the male genital tract, is timely. We used cell-source marker virion immunocapture to examine amplification of particle RNA then assessed the phylogenetic relatedness of seminal and blood viral sequences from men with HIV who were prescribed INSTI-based regimens. Seminal plasma immunocaptures yielded amplifiable virion RNA from 13/24 (54%) men, and the sequences were primarily associated with markers indicative of macrophage and resident dendritic cell sources. Genetic distances were greatest (>2%) between seminal virions and circulating proviruses, pointing to ongoing low-level expression from tissue-resident cells. While the low levels in semen predict an improbable likelihood of transmission, viruses with large genetic distances are expressed under potent INSTI therapy and have implications for determining epidemiologic linkages if adherence is suboptimal.

Keywords: HIV persistence; INSTI-based treatment; Untransmittable; low-level viremia.