Opportunistic infection as a cause of transient viremia in chronically infected HIV patients under treatment with HAART
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- Jonesa, L.E. & Perelson, A.S. Bull. Math. Biol. (2005) 67: 1227. doi:10.1016/j.bulm.2005.01.006
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When highly active antiretroviral therapy is administered for long periods of time to HIV-1 infected patients, most patients achieve viral loads that are “undetectable” by standard assay (i.e., HIV-1 RNA < 50 copies/ml). Yet despite exhibiting sustained viral loads below the level of detection, a number of these patients experience unexplained episodes of transient viremia or viral “blips”. We propose here that transient activation of the immune system by opportunistic infection may explain these episodes of viremia. Indeed, immune activation by opportunistic infection may spur HIV replication, replenish viral reservoirs and contribute to accelerated disease progression. In order to investigate the effects of intercurrent infection on chronically infected HIV patients under treatment with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), we extend a simple dynamic model of the effects of vaccination on HIV infection [Jones, L.E., Perelson, A.S., 2002. Modeling the effects of vaccination on chronically infected HIV-positive patients. JAIDS 31, 369–377] to include growing pathogens. We then propose a more realistic model for immune cell expansion in the presence of pathogen, and include this in a set of competing models that allow low baseline viral loads in the presence of drug treatment. Programmed expansion of immune cells upon exposure to antigen is a feature not previously included in HIV models, and one that is especially important to consider when simulating an immune response to opportunistic infection. Using these models we show that viral blips with realistic duration and amplitude can be generated by intercurrent infections in HAART treated patients.