The dual-target approach in viral HIV-1 viremia testing: An added value to virological monitoring?

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New methods of HIV-1 RNA quantification based on dual-target detection are increasingly used in HIV viral load monitoring, but clinical implications and impact of dual-target detection on HIV-1 infection management are not established. Aptima HIV-1 Quant Dx assay is a last generation HIV viral load method, that uses pol and LTR as simultaneous target, providing quantitative results based mainly on pol target, while LTR target is used to report the results when pol signal is absent. In our laboratory, about 6% of results of all HIV-1 viral load tests performed with this platform in one year period resulted from LTR signal. Interestingly, LTR-based viremia (sometimes exceeding 1,000 copies/mL) was observed in a small proportion (up to 1%) of patients under ART, considered for long time virologically suppressed on the basis of a single target (pol-based) assay. Male gender, >700 vs <200 CD4 cell/mL and dual therapy including NRTI plus either NNRTI, or PI/b or INSTI were independently associated with increased risk of LTR-based HIV-1 viral load detection by multivariable logistic regression. A significant linear correlation was observed between LTR-based HIV-1 RNA levels and PBMC-associated proviral DNA. Moreover, in a small group of patients with HIV-1 RNA levels >200 copies/mL, longitudinal assessments showed parallel kinetics between plasma viremia and proviral DNA. Sequencing of pol region for drug resistance assessment in patients with LTR-based viremia failed on plasma HIV-1 RNA, while it was successful on proviral DNA. The detection/quantification of HIV-1 viremia based only on LTR signal with a dual target assay in samples resulting undetectable with the more conventional target pol needs accurate evaluation; unravelling the biological basis of this phenomenon, here described for the first time, is mandatory to establish relevance and implication by both pathogenetic (i.e. infectivity of LTR-detected viruses, reservoir turnover, immune activation, etc.) and clinical standpoint.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0228192
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS One
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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