HIV Treatment: OK to Take a Break?

New NIH research data show the effects of temporarily stopping antiretroviral therapy on HIV reservoirs and viral loads in patients.


Antiretroviral therapy (ART) keeps viral load of HIV at undetectable levels. The key is taking it daily. But it may be possible for patients to temporarily stop ART without long-lasting or irreversible damage to the immune system.

That approach is called analytical treatment interruption (ATI), and it is the subject of a study by NIH researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. They analyzed blood samples from 10 volunteers who participated in a clinical trial that evaluated whether infusions of a broadly neutralizing antibody could control HIV in the absence of ART.

During the trial, participants temporarily stopped taking ART, resuming 22 to 115 days after stopping. In that hiatus, HIV reservoirs expanded and viral load increased. The researchers also observed abnormalities in the participants’ immune cells. However, 6 to 12 months after the participants resumed ART, the size of the HIV reservoirs and the immune parameters returned to the pre-ATI levels.

These findings support the use of ATI in clinical trials of therapeutic strategies aimed at achieving sustained ART-free remission, the researchers say. They are now conducting a clinical trial to monitor the impact of short-term ATI on a variety of parameters in people living with HIV.

National Institutes of Health. Published January 11, 2018. Accessed February 8, 2018.

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