Adaptation of advanced clinical virology assays from HIV-1 to SARS-CoV-2

Publication: Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS


Purpose of review: In response to the HIV-AIDS pandemic, great strides have been made in developing molecular methods that accurately quantify nucleic acid products of HIV-1 at different stages of viral replication and to assess HIV-1 sequence diversity and its effect on susceptibility to small molecule inhibitors and neutralizing antibodies. Here, we review how knowledge gained from these approaches, including viral RNA quantification and sequence analyses, have been rapidly applied to study SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent findings: Recent studies have shown detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in blood of infected individuals by reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR); and, as in HIV-1 infection, there is growing evidence that the level of viral RNA in plasma may be related to COVID disease severity. Unlike HIV-1, SARS-CoV-2 sequences are highly conserved limiting SARS-CoV-2 sequencing applications to investigating interpatient genetic diversity for phylogenetic analysis. Sensitive sequencing technologies, originally developed for HIV-1, will be needed to investigate intrapatient SARS-CoV-2 genetic variation in response to antiviral therapeutics and vaccines. Summary: Methods used for HIV-1 have been rapidly applied to SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 to understand pathogenesis and prognosis. Further application of such methods should improve precision of therapy and outcome.

By Kevin Dylan McCormick, John W. Mellors, Jana L. Jacobs