Hydroxyurea and didanosine treatment suppressed HIV replication for more than 2 years, in the absence of viral breakthrough, in chronically infected patients. The profile of viral load reduction was unusual for a two-drug combination, since a continuous gradual decrease in viremia persisted despite residual viral replication. The increase in CD4+ T cell counts was not robust. However, unlike those of patients treated by other therapies, CD4+ T lymphocytes were functionally competent against HIV, mediating a vigorous HIV-specific helper T cell response in half of these patients. In addition, the percentages of naive CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes were not different from those in uninfected individuals. These results demonstrate that prolonged antiretroviral therapy with a simple, well-tolerated combination of two affordable drugs can lead to sustained control of HIV, normalization of immune parameters, and specific anti-HIV immune response.
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