Many reports indicate that a long-term asymptomatic state following human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection is associated with a low amount of circulating virus. To evaluate the possible effect of stabilizing a low virus load by non-sterilizing preexposure vaccination, a quantitative virus isolation method was developed and evaluated in four chronically infected chimpanzees infected with a variety of HIV-1 related isolates. This assay was then used to monitor a group of chimpanzees ( = 6) challenged with HIV-1 following vaccination with gp120 or gp160. Data indicated that of the three vaccinated animals which became infected after challenge, the animal with the lowest neutralizing titre at the time of challenge acquired a virus load similar to the control animals, whereas the two other chimpanzees had reduced numbers of virus producing cells in their peripheral circulation. One animal became virus isolation negative, developed an indeterminant PCR signal on lymph node DNA and subsequently became negative for HIV-1 DNA as determined by PCR on PBMC (peripheral blood mononuclear cells) and bone marrow DNA. Recently, the second animal has also become PCR negative. To confirm observations from quantitative virus isolations, quantification of HIV-1 DNA in PBMC and virus RNA in serum was performed by PCR on serially diluted samples at two different time points. Comparison of virus load as determined by these three methods confirmed that there was an effect of vaccination in reducing virus load and demonstrated a correlation between decreased numbers of virus producing cells, HIV-1 DNA containing cells and virus RNA molecules in serum.


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