Background: The goal of antiretroviral therapy (ART) is to suppress virus replication to limit immune system damage. Some have proposed combining ART with immune therapies to boost antiviral immunity. For this to be successful, ART must not impair physiological immune function.
Methods: We studied the impact of ART (tenofovir and emtricitabine) on systemic and mucosal immunity in uninfected and simian immunodeficiency (SIV)–infected Chinese rhesus macaques. Subcutaneous ART was initiated 2 weeks after tonsillar inoculation with SIVmac239.
Results: There was no evidence of immune dysregulation as a result of ART in either infected or uninfected animals. Early virus-induced alterations in circulating immune cell populations (decreased central memory T cells and myeloid dendritic cells) were detected, but normalized shortly after ART initiation. ART-treated animals showed marginal SIV-specific T-cell responses during treatment, which increased after ART discontinuation. Elevated expression of CXCL10 in oral, rectal, and blood samples and APOBEC3G mRNA in oral and rectal tissues was observed during acute infection and was down regulated after starting ART. ART did not impact the ability of the animals to respond to tonsillar application of polyICLC with increased CXCL10 expression in oral fluids and CD80 expression on blood myeloid dendritic cells.
Conclusion: Early initiation of ART prevented virus-induced damage and did not impede mucosal or systemic immune functions.