Despite improved clinical outcomes seen following antiretroviral therapy (ART), resting CD4+ T cells continue to harbor latent human immunodeficiency virus type one (HIV-1). However, such cells are not likely the solitary viral reservoir and as such defining where and how others harbor virus is imperative for eradication measures. To such ends, we used HIV-1 ADA-infected NOD.Cg- Prkdc scid Il2rg tm1Wjl /SzJ mice reconstituted with a human immune system to explore two long-acting ART regimens investigating their abilities to affect viral cell infection and latency. At 6 weeks of infection animals were divided into four groups. One received long-acting (LA) cabotegravir (CAB) and rilpivirine (RVP) (2ART), a second received LA CAB, lamivudine, abacavir and RVP (4ART), a third were left untreated and a fourth served as an uninfected control. After 4 weeks of LA ART treatment, blood, spleen and bone marrow (BM) cells were collected then phenotypically characterized. CD4+ T cell subsets, macrophages and hematopoietic progenitor cells were analyzed for HIV-1 nucleic acids by droplet digital PCR.
Plasma viral loads were reduced by two log 10 or to undetectable levels in the 2 and 4ART regimens, respectively. Numbers and distributions of CD4+ memory and regulatory T cells, macrophages and hematopoietic progenitor cells were significantly altered by HIV-1 infection and by both ART regimens. ART reduced viral DNA and RNA in all cell and tissue compartments. While memory cells were the dominant T cell reservoir, integrated HIV-1 DNA was also detected in the BM and spleen macrophages in both regimen-treated mice.
Despite vigorous ART regimens, HIV-1 DNA and RNA were easily detected in mature macrophages supporting their potential role as an infectious viral reservoir.