The follicular dendritic cell network (FDC) in lymphoid tissues (LTs) is the major site of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) storage in presymptomatic and late stages of disease. However, little is known about the rate of virus accumulation during the acute and early stages. In situ hybridization and quantitative image analysis were used to determine the amount of virus bound to the FDC network during the first year of infection. The FDC pool was already >7.0 log10 copies of HIV RNA/g LT in the first year, and 2 patients biopsied within 2-4 days of symptom onset had 7.3 and 8.2 log10 copies of HIV RNA/g LT, respectively. There was no correlation between duration of infection and accumulation of HIV into the FDC network. These data suggest that a large pool of infectious virus is established soon after infection and that initiation of antiretroviral therapy when symptoms of primary HIV infection are recognized is unlikely to prevent substantial accumulation of virus in the FDC network.
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Financial support: NIH grant support (AI28246, AI30731, AI01338, AI38858, AI 43638, AI27670, AI36214, AI29164, and AI43752 and ACTG grant 2-U01-A127664-06, AI451536-01).