UnlabelledA number of men receiving prolonged suppressive highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) still shed human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in semen. To investigate whether this seminal shedding may be due to poor drug penetration and/or viral production by long-lived cells within male genital tissues, we analyzed semen and reproductive tissues from macaques chronically infected with simian immunodeficiency virus mac251 (SIVmac251) who were treated for 4 months with HAART, which was intensified over the last 7 weeks with an integrase inhibitor. We showed that a subset of treated animals continued shedding SIV in semen despite efficient HAART. This shedding was not associated with low antiretroviral drug concentrations in semen or in testis, epididymis, seminal vesicles, and prostate. HAART had no significant impact on SIV RNA in the urethra, whereas it drastically reduced SIV RNA levels in the prostate and vas deferens and to a lesser extent in the epididymis and seminal vesicle. The only detectable SIV RNA-positive cells within the male genital tract after HAART were urethral macrophages. SIV DNA levels in genital tissues were not decreased by HAART, suggesting the presence throughout the male genital tract of nonproductively infected cells. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that 4 months of HAART induced variable and limited control of viral infection in the male reproductive organs, particularly in the urethra, and suggest that infected long-lived cells in the male genital tract may be involved in persistent seminal shedding during HAART. These results pave the way for further investigations of male genital organ infection in long-term-treated infected individuals.
ImportanceA substantial subset of men receiving prolonged HAART suppressing viral loads in the blood still harbor HIV in semen, and cases of sexual transmission have been reported. To understand the origin of this persistence, we analyzed the semen and male reproductive tissues from SIV-infected macaques treated with HAART. We demonstrated that persistent seminal shedding was not linked to poor drug penetration in semen or semen-producing prostate, seminal vesicle, epididymis, and testis. We revealed that HAART decreased SIV RNA to various extents in all male genital organs, with the exception of the urethra, in which SIV RNA(+) macrophages were observed despite HAART. Importantly, HAART did not impact SIV DNA levels in the male genital organs. These results suggest that infection of male genital organs, and particularly the urethra, could be involved in the release of virus in semen during HAART.
SUBMITTER: Matusali G