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VL in the blood vs. VL in the organs
Oct 27, 2013

Hi Dr. Mark,

I have a question about viral load levels in the blood vs. the viral load levels in different parts of the body. I'm just now getting around to the fact that only about 2% of HIV is found in the blood, and the rest may be found in other parts of the body, like the organs.

So even if HIV positive individuals now have an undetectable viral load, would this necessarily be true for the viral load levels of HIV in other parts of the body like the organs? Is there any way of finding out what the viral load levels are in other parts of the body besides the blood?

Thank you!

Response from Dr. Holodniy

You are correct. The blood is just a window to what is going on in the rest of the body. We do know that when we have measured viral load in the genital tract, GI tract or spinal fluid, the viral load levels tend to go down or become undetectable just like the blood. There are no commercial tests to look for virus in these other places. However, that is also only one component (i.e. the free virus that is circulating). Another large reservoir are infected cells that have HIV integrated into the cell DNA. Some of the cells types that can be infected are short-lived, and others can last for years with HIV in them, and they reside in many different organs in the body.



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