Longitudinal analysis of CSF HIV RNA in untreated people with HIV: Identification of CSF controllers

Mattia Trunfio, Bin Tang, Oluwakemi Okwuegbuna, Jennifer E. Iudicello, Ajay Bharti, David J. Moore, Benjamin B. Gelman, Susan Morgello, Payal B. Patel, Leah H. Rubin, Beau M. Ances, Sara Gianella, Robert K. Heaton, Ronald J. Ellis, Scott L. Letendre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interindividual variation of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) RNA setpoint in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and its determinants are poorly understood, but relevant for HIV neuropathology, brain reservoirs, viral escape, and reseeding after antiretroviral interruptions. Longitudinal multicentric study on demographic, clinical, and laboratory correlates of CSF HIV RNA in 2000 follow-up visits from 597 people with HIV (PWH) off antiretroviral therapy (ART) and with plasma HIV RNA > the lower limit of quantification (LLQ). Factors associated with CSF control (CSFC; CSF HIV RNA < LLQ while plasma HIV RNA > LLQ) and with CSF/plasma discordance (CSF > plasma HIV RNA > LLQ) were also assessed through mixed-effects models. Posthoc and sensitivity analyses were performed for persistent CSFC and ART-naïve participants, respectively. Over a median follow-up of 2.1 years, CSF HIV RNA was associated with CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, CSF leukocytes, blood–brain barrier (BBB) integrity, biomarkers of iron and lipid metabolism, serum globulins, past exposure to lamivudine, and plasma HIV RNA (model p < 0.0001). CSFC (persistent in 7.7% over 3 years) and CSF/plasma discordance (persistent in <0.01% over 1 year) were variably associated with the same parameters (model p < 0.001). Sensitivity analyses confirmed most of the previous associations in participants never exposed to ART. Persistent CSFC was associated with higher CD4+ T-cell count nadir (p < 0.001), lower serum globulins (p = 0.003), and lower CSF leukocytes (p < 0.001). Without ART, one in 13 PWH had persistently undetectable CSF HIV RNA, while persistent CSF/plasma discordance was extremely rare over years. Immune responses, inflammation, BBB permeability, and iron and lipid metabolism were all associated with HIV replication in CSF.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere29550
JournalJournal of Medical Virology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • CSF control
  • CSF/plasma discordance
  • HIV viral load
  • antiretroviral naïve
  • blood–brain barrier
  • central nervous system


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