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1.  Increase in 2–Long Terminal Repeat Circles and Decrease in D-dimer After Raltegravir Intensification in Patients With Treated HIV Infection: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2013;208(9):1436-1442.
Background. The degree to which human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) continues to replicate during antiretroviral therapy (ART) is controversial. We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to assess whether raltegravir intensification reduces low-level viral replication, as defined by an increase in the level of 2–long terminal repeat (2-LTR) circles.
Methods. Thirty-one subjects with an ART-suppressed plasma HIV RNA level of <40 copies/mL and a CD4+ T-cell count of ≥350 cells/mm3 for ≥1 year were randomly assigned to receive raltegravir 400 mg twice daily or placebo for 24 weeks. 2-LTR circles were analyzed by droplet digital polymerase chain reaction at weeks 0, 1, 2, and 8.
Results. The median duration of ART suppression was 3.8 years. The raltegravir group had a significant increase in the level of 2-LTR circles, compared to the placebo group. The week 1 to 0 ratio was 8.8-fold higher (P = .0025) and the week 2 to 0 ratio was 5.7-fold higher (P = .023) in the raltegravir vs. placebo group. Intensification also led to a statistically significant decrease in the D-dimer level, compared to placebo (P = .045).
Conclusions. Raltegravir intensification resulted in a rapid increase in the level of 2-LTR circles in a proportion of subjects, indicating that low-level viral replication persists in some individuals even after long-term ART. Intensification also reduced the D-dimer level, a coagulation biomarker that is predictive of morbidity and mortality among patients receiving treatment for HIV infection.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jit453
PMCID: PMC3789577  PMID: 23975885
HIV; raltegravir intensification; 2-LTR circles; ongoing viral replication; D-dimer
2.  Antiretroviral Therapy Initiated Within 6 Months of HIV Infection Is Associated With Lower T-Cell Activation and Smaller HIV Reservoir Size 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2013;208(8):1202-1211.
Background. CD4+/CD8+ T-cell activation levels often remain elevated in chronic human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection despite initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART). T-cell activation predicts early death and blunted CD4+ T-cell recovery during ART and may affect persistent HIV reservoir size. We investigated whether very early ART initiation is associated with lower on-therapy immune activation and HIV persistence.
Methods. From a cohort of patients with early HIV infection (<6 months duration since infection) we identified persons who started ART early (<6 months after infection) or later (≥2 years after infection) and maintained ≥2 years of virologic suppression; at-risk HIV-negative persons were controls. We measured CD4+/CD8+ T-cell activation (percent CD38+/HLA-DR+) and HIV reservoir size (based on HIV DNA and cell-associated RNA levels).
Results. In unadjusted analyses, early ART predicted lower on-therapy CD8+ T-cell activation (n = 34; mean, 22.1%) than achieved with later ART (n = 32; mean, 28.8%; P = .009), although levels in early ART remained elevated relative to HIV-negative controls (P = .02). Early ART also predicted lower CD4+ T-cell activation than with later ART (5.3% vs 7.5%; P = .06). Early ART predicted 4.8-fold lower DNA levels than achieved with later ART (P = .005), and lower cell-associated RNA levels (difference in signal-to-cutoff ratio (S/Co), 3.2; P = .035).
Conclusions. ART initiation <6 months after infection is associated with lower levels of T-cell activation and smaller HIV DNA and RNA reservoir size during long-term therapy.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jit311
PMCID: PMC3778965  PMID: 23852127
HIV antiretroviral therapy; early ART; T-cell activation; inflammation; HIVreservoir; HIV eradication; HIV cure
3.  Prospective Antiretroviral Treatment of Asymptomatic, HIV-1 Infected Controllers 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(10):e1003691.
The study of HIV-infected “controllers” who are able to maintain low levels of plasma HIV RNA in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (ART) may provide insights for HIV cure and vaccine strategies. Despite maintaining very low levels of plasma viremia, controllers have elevated immune activation and accelerated atherosclerosis. However, the degree to which low-level replication contributes to these phenomena is not known. Sixteen asymptomatic controllers were prospectively treated with ART for 24 weeks. Controllers had a statistically significant decrease in ultrasensitive plasma and rectal HIV RNA levels with ART. Markers of T cell activation/dysfunction in blood and gut mucosa also decreased substantially with ART. Similar reductions were observed in the subset of “elite” controllers with pre-ART plasma HIV RNA levels below conventional assays (<40 copies/mL). These data confirm that HIV replication persists in controllers and contributes to a chronic inflammatory state. ART should be considered for these individuals (ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01025427).
Author Summary
HIV-infected “controllers” are rare individuals who are HIV-seropositive but are able to maintain low levels of plasma HIV RNA in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (ART). There has been intense interest in characterizing these unique individuals because they have been considered as a potential model for a “functional cure” of HIV. Previously, our group has shown that controllers have elevated levels of T cell activation and accelerated atherosclerosis, suggesting that very low levels of viral replication may lead to disproportionately high levels of immune activation. However, the degree to which viral replication contributes to these outcomes is not known. We therefore conducted the first, prospective study of ART initiation in a cohort of asymptomatic HIV-infected controllers, in order to determine the virologic and immunologic effects of treating controllers with ART. Controllers had a significant decreases in ultrasensitive plasma HIV RNA, rectal HIV RNA, and markers of T cell activation/dysfunction in blood and gut mucosa with ART. Similar reductions were observed in the subset of “elite” controllers with extremely low pre-ART plasma HIV RNA levels (<40 copies/mL). These data suggest that HIV replication persists in controllers and contributes to a chronic inflammatory state.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003691
PMCID: PMC3795031  PMID: 24130489
4.  Cortisol Patterns Are Associated with T Cell Activation in HIV 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e63429.
Objective
The level of T cell activation in untreated HIV disease is strongly and independently associated with risk of immunologic and clinical progression. The factors that influence the level of activation, however, are not fully defined. Since endogenous glucocorticoids are important in regulating inflammation, we sought to determine whether less optimal diurnal cortisol patterns are associated with greater T cell activation.
Methods
We studied 128 HIV-infected adults who were not on treatment and had a CD4+ T cell count above 250 cells/µl. We assessed T cell activation by CD38 expression using flow cytometry, and diurnal cortisol was assessed with salivary measurements.
Results
Lower waking cortisol levels correlated with greater T cell immune activation, measured by CD38 mean fluorescent intensity, on CD4+ T cells (r = −0.26, p = 0.006). Participants with lower waking cortisol also showed a trend toward greater activation on CD8+ T cells (r = −0.17, p = 0.08). A greater diurnal decline in cortisol, usually considered a healthy pattern, correlated with less CD4+ (r = 0.24, p = 0.018) and CD8+ (r = 0.24, p = 0.017) activation.
Conclusions
These data suggest that the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis contributes to the regulation of T cell activation in HIV. This may represent an important pathway through which psychological states and the HPA axis influence progression of HIV.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063429
PMCID: PMC3724863  PMID: 23922644
5.  Differential Persistence of Transmitted HIV-1 Drug Resistance Mutation Classes 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2011;203(8):1174-1181.
Background. Transmitted human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) drug resistance (TDR) mutations can become replaced over time by emerging wild-type viral variants with improved fitness. The impact of class-specific mutations on this rate of mutation replacement is uncertain.
Methods. We studied participants with acute and/or early HIV infection and TDR in 2 cohorts (San Francisco, California, and São Paulo, Brazil). We followed baseline mutations longitudinally and compared replacement rates between mutation classes with use of a parametric proportional hazards model.
Results. Among 75 individuals with 195 TDR mutations, M184V/I became undetectable markedly faster than did nonnucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) mutations (hazard ratio, 77.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 14.7–408.2; P < .0001), while protease inhibitor and NNRTI replacement rates were similar. Higher plasma HIV-1 RNA level predicted faster mutation replacement, but this was not statistically significant (hazard ratio, 1.71 log10 copies/mL; 95% CI, .90–3.25 log10 copies/mL; P = .11). We found substantial person-to-person variability in mutation replacement rates not accounted for by viral load or mutation class (P < .0001).
Conclusions. The rapid replacement of M184V/I mutations is consistent with known fitness costs. The long-term persistence of NNRTI and protease inhibitor mutations suggests a risk for person-to-person propagation. Host and/or viral factors not accounted for by viral load or mutation class are likely influencing mutation replacement and warrant further study.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jiq167
PMCID: PMC3107558  PMID: 21451005
6.  Breaking Free of Sample Size Dogma to Perform Innovative Translational Research 
Science translational medicine  2011;3(87):87ps24.
Innovative clinical and translational research is often delayed or prevented by reviewers’ expectations that any study performed in humans must be shown in advance to have high statistical power. This supposed requirement is not justifiable and is contradicted by the reality that increasing sample size produces diminishing marginal returns. Studies of new ideas often must start small (sometimes even with an N of 1) because of cost and feasibility concerns, and recent statistical work shows that small sample sizes for such research can produce more projected scientific value per dollar spent than larger sample sizes. Renouncing false dogma about sample size would remove a serious barrier to innovation and translation.
doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3001628
PMCID: PMC3134305  PMID: 21677197
7.  HIV RNA level in early infection is predicted by viral load in the transmission source 
AIDS (London, England)  2010;24(7):941-945.
Objective
HIV-1 viral load in early infection predicts the risk of subsequent disease progression but the factors responsible for the differences between individuals in viral load during this period have not been fully identified. We sought to determine the relationship between HIV-1 RNA levels in the source partner and recently infected recipient partners within transmission pairs.
Methods
We recruited donor partners of persons who presented with acute or recent (< 6 months) HIV infection. Transmission was confirmed by phyologenetic comparison of virus sequence in the donor and recipient partners. We compared viral load in the donor partner and the recipient in the first 6 months of HIV infection.
Results
We identified 24 transmission pairs. The median estimated time from infection to evaluation in acutely/recently infected recipient individuals was 72 days. The viral load in the donor was closely associated with viral load at presentation in the recipient case (r=0.55, P=0.006).
Conclusion
The strong correlation between HIV-1 RNA levels within HIV transmission pairs indicates that virus characteristics are an important determinant of viral load in early HIV infection.
doi:10.1097/QAD.0b013e328337b12e
PMCID: PMC2887742  PMID: 20168202
HIV-1 RNA; acute HIV-1 infection; HIV-1 transmission; viral load set-point; HIV-1 pathogenesis
8.  Transmitted Drug Resistance in Persons with Acute/Early HIV-1 in San Francisco, 2002-2009 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e15510.
Background
Transmitted HIV-1 drug resistance (TDR) is an ongoing public health problem, representing 10–20% of new HIV infections in many geographic areas. TDR usually arises from two main sources: individuals on antiretroviral therapy (ART) who are failing to achieve virologic suppression, and individuals who acquired TDR and transmit it while still ART-naïve. TDR rates can be impacted when novel antiretroviral medications are introduced that allow for greater virologic suppression of source patients. Although several new HIV medications were introduced starting in late 2007, including raltegravir, maraviroc, and etravirine, it is not known whether the prevalence of TDR was subsequently affected in 2008–2009.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We performed population sequence genotyping on individuals who were diagnosed with acute or early HIV (<6 months duration) and who enrolled in the Options Project, a prospective cohort, between 2002 and 2009. We used logistic regression to compare the odds of acquiring drug-resistant HIV before versus after the arrival of new ART (2005–2007 vs. 2008–2009). From 2003–2007, TDR rose from 7% to 24%. Prevalence of TDR was then 15% in 2008 and in 2009. While the odds of acquiring TDR were lower in 2008–2009 compared to 2005–2007, this was not statistically significant (odds ratio 0.65, 95% CI 0.31–1.38; p = 0.27).
Conclusions
Our study suggests that transmitted drug resistance rose from 2003–2007, but this upward trend did not continue in 2008 and 2009. Nevertheless, the TDR prevalence in 2008–2009 remained substantial, emphasizing that improved management strategies for drug-resistant HIV are needed if TDR is to be further reduced. Continued surveillance for TDR will be important in understanding the full impact of new antiretroviral medications.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015510
PMCID: PMC3000814  PMID: 21170322

Results 1-8 (8)