HIV-infected patients and SIV-infected macaques on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) present with residual immune activation (IA) and inflammation (INFL), which are indicators of poor prognosis even in the setting of controlled viral replication. The causes of IA/INFL under antiretroviral therapy (ART) are not yet fully elucidated. It is currently not known whether IA/INFL is determined by residual virus replication below the detection limits of conventional assays or by irreversible damage of the gut that allows leakage, independent of virus replication. Also, it is not known which tissues/s and what immune cell type/s are predominantly responsible for the residual IA/INFL in the treated patients. It is not clear whether or not the immunologic status of the patient at the time of ART initiation impacts the residual IA/INFL. The consequences of increased IA/INFL in the presence and absence of ART are not completely understood. For example, although observational studies in humans and nonhuman primates (NHPs) suggest a link between IA/INFL and increased cardiovascular (CV) risk, direct proof of causal link is lacking. We will address these aspects of HIV pathogenesis and management of HIV-infected patient in this competitive renewal of RO1 AI064066, which is our grant to study SIV pathogenesis in NHPs. During the previous funding period, which generated 43 scientific publications, we developed the SIVagm- infected pigtailed macaque (PTM) as an ideal model to study the microbial translocation (MT)-induced IA/INFL and SIV-related CV comorbidities. We also identified a combination of drugs that significantly reduces MT and IA/INFL in the highly pathogenic SIVagm infection in PTMs. As a result of this intervention, the coagulation markers are reduced in this model. Based on these preliminary data, our hypothesis is that MT induces generalized IA/INFL that increases the CV risk in HIV-infected patients, including those that control virus replication under HAART. To test this hypothesis in our clinically relevant system, we will use interventions to reduce MT in the absence or in the presence of ART and determine the consequences of these interventions on IA/INFL and CV risk. Treatments will be initiated at key time points during acute, chronic and terminal SIV infection, to model relevant clinical settings and assess efficacy in patients with different immune status. Invasive sampling will be performed to measure virus replication, IA/INFL and to diagnose CV lesions. Such experiments cannot be performed in humans. This study design will allow us to determine: (i) the relative role of virus replication and MT in inducing IA/INFL and CV disease during each stage of infection, in the presence or in the absence of ART;(ii) the origin of IA/INFL under ART;(iii) the timing and the pathways of CV disease development during SIV infection;(iv) if reduction of MT will normalize IA/INFL and CV risk under ART;(v) the role of immune status in the response to these two therapeutic approaches;(vi) the optimal timing for initiating individual and combined therapies. These highly translational experiments address major gaps in our current knowledge of HIV pathogenesis and treatment and have the potential to improve clinical management and survival of HIV-infected patients by targeting residual IA/INFL under ART, immune recovery and HIV/SIV-related CV disease.

Public Health Relevance

We propose a strategy to improve response to antiretroviral therapy in patients with residual immune activation/inflammation (IA/INFL) and cardiovascular comorbidities. Our hypothesis is that translocation of microbial elements from the intestinal lumen crippled by HIV/SIV infection induces generalized IA/INFL that increases the risk of comorbidities in HIV-infected patients, including those that control virus replication. We will combine therapeutic interventions aimed at controlling viral replication (antiretroviral therapy) and microbial translocation (a combination of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and microbial chelators) in SIVagm-infected pigtailed macaques that have high levels of MT-induced IA/INFL and cardiovascular abnormalities similar to those described in HIV-patients. We identified a drug combination that successfully reduces MT in this animal model. We will determine the impact of these manipulations on residual IA/INFL and on cardiovascular disease associated with SIV infection. If successful, this highly translational research has the potential to: (i) identify a nw therapeutic approach to improve the clinical management of HIV-infected patient and prevent complications of AIDS;(ii) validate biomarkers for the diagnostic of HIV- associated cardiovascular risk and/or disease progression;(iii) implement these biomarkers in clinical settings for treatment monitoring of cardiovascular disease in HIV-infected patients.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-AARR-E (02))
Program Officer
Mcdonald, Cheryl
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Pittsburgh
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Kleinman, Adam J; Sivanandham, Ranjit; Pandrea, Ivona et al. (2018) Regulatory T Cells As Potential Targets for HIV Cure Research. Front Immunol 9:734
Brocca-Cofano, Egidio; Xu, Cuiling; Wetzel, Katherine S et al. (2018) Marginal Effects of Systemic CCR5 Blockade with Maraviroc on Oral Simian Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission to Infant Macaques. J Virol 92:
Policicchio, Benjamin Bruno; Sette, Paola; Xu, Cuiling et al. (2018) Emergence of resistance mutations in simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected rhesus macaques receiving non-suppressive antiretroviral therapy (ART). PLoS One 13:e0190908
Policicchio, Benjamin B; Cardozo, Erwing Fabian; Sette, Paola et al. (2018) Dynamics of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus Two-Long-Terminal-Repeat Circles in the Presence and Absence of CD8+ Cells. J Virol 92:
Brocca-Cofano, Egidio; Kuhrt, David; Siewe, Basile et al. (2017) Pathogenic Correlates of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus-Associated B Cell Dysfunction. J Virol 91:
Wetzel, Katherine S; Yi, Yanjie; Elliott, Sarah T C et al. (2017) CXCR6-Mediated Simian Immunodeficiency Virus SIVagmSab Entry into Sabaeus African Green Monkey Lymphocytes Implicates Widespread Use of Non-CCR5 Pathways in Natural Host Infections. J Virol 91:
Schechter, Melissa E; Andrade, Bruno B; He, Tianyu et al. (2017) Inflammatory monocytes expressing tissue factor drive SIV and HIV coagulopathy. Sci Transl Med 9:
Policicchio, Benjamin B; Xu, Cuiling; Brocca-Cofano, Egidio et al. (2016) Multi-dose Romidepsin Reactivates Replication Competent SIV in Post-antiretroviral Rhesus Macaque Controllers. PLoS Pathog 12:e1005879
He, Tianyu; Brocca-Cofano, Egidio; Policicchio, Benjamin B et al. (2016) Cutting Edge: T Regulatory Cell Depletion Reactivates Latent Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) in Controller Macaques While Boosting SIV-Specific T Lymphocytes. J Immunol 197:4535-4539
Raehtz, Kevin; Pandrea, Ivona; Apetrei, Cristian (2016) The well-tempered SIV infection: Pathogenesis of SIV infection in natural hosts in the wild, with emphasis on virus transmission and early events post-infection that may contribute to protection from disease progression. Infect Genet Evol 46:308-323

Showing the most recent 10 out of 26 publications