Effective antiretroviral therapy usually leads to undetectable HIV-1 RNA in the plasma. However, the virus persists in some cells of infected patients as various DNA forms, both integrated and unintegrated. This reservoir represents the greatest challenge to the complete cure of HIV-1 infection and its characteristics highly impact the course of the disease. The quantification of HIV-1 DNA in blood samples constitutes currently the most practical approach to measure this residual infection. Real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) is the most common method used for HIV-DNA quantification and many strategies have been developed to measure the different forms of HIV-1 DNA. In the literature, several "in-house" PCR methods have been used and there is a need for standardization to have comparable results. In addition, qPCR is limited for the precise quantification of low levels by background noise. Among new assays in development, digital PCR was shown to allow an accurate quantification of HIV-1 DNA. Total HIV-1 DNA is most commonly measured in clinical routine. The absolute quantification of proviruses and unintegrated forms is more often used for research purposes.
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