Cell-to-cell viral transmission via virological synapses has been argued to reduce susceptibility of the virus population to anti-viral drugs through multiple infection of cells, contributing to low-level viral persistence during therapy. Using a mathematical framework, we examine the role of synaptic transmission in treatment susceptibility. A key factor is the relative probability of individual virions to infect a cell during free-virus and synaptic transmission, a currently unknown quantity. If this infection probability is higher for free-virus transmission, then treatment susceptibility is lowest if one virus is transferred per synapse, and multiple infection of cells increases susceptibility. In the opposite case, treatment susceptibility is minimized for an intermediate number of virions transferred per synapse. Hence, multiple infection via synapses does not simply lower treatment susceptibility. Without further experimental investigations, one cannot conclude that synaptic transmission provides an additional mechanism for the virus to persist at low levels during anti-viral therapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas