In an effort to identify the sources of the viruses that emerge after discontinuation of therapy, analyses of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) quasi species were done for 3 patients with sustained levels of HIV RNA of <50 copies/mL for 1-3 years. The sequences found in the rebounding plasma virus were closely related to those of the actively replicating form of viruses present before the initiation of combination therapy. All quasi species found in the rebounding plasma virus were also present in proviral DNA, cell-associated RNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), and virion RNA derived from PBMC coculture during periods when plasma HIV RNA levels were <50 copies/mL. These findings suggest that the rapid resurgence of plasma viremia observed after discontinuation of therapy and the viruses cocultured from PBMC are derived from a relatively stable pool of the replicating form of virus rather than from activation of a previously latent pool.
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