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Source: Thailand Medical News  Oct 23, 2019  4 years, 5 months, 3 weeks, 4 days, 4 hours, 59 minutes ago

Researchers Discover Ways To Deal With HIV Reservoirs To Create Longer Periods Of Virus Suppression And Possible Cure

Researchers Discover Ways To Deal With HIV Reservoirs To Create Longer Periods Of Virus Suppression And Possible Cure
Source: Thailand Medical News  Oct 23, 2019  4 years, 5 months, 3 weeks, 4 days, 4 hours, 59 minutes ago
An new research study involving an international collaboration that included the University of Cape Town (UCT), Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) has revealed an unexpected finding that could lead to better therapies towards reducing the HIV reservoir, a major barrier to developing a cure for HIV. The reservoir consists of viral DNA that survives hidden in the body even after indefinite treatment with antiretrovirals. Antiretroviral treatment can suppress HIV, but it cannot cure the infection.

Commonly available antiretroviral treatments stop progression of the disease, and in most cases, prevent individuals from developing the immune deficiency syndrome AIDS. These antiretrovirals can reduce a person’s viral load to the point where it’s undetectable with standard tests.



But current antiretroviral treatments cannot completely eradicate the virus, which persists in long-lived reservoirs in the DNA of immune cells. HIV encodes itself in the DNA of millions of CD4 immune cells, just waiting for the opportunity to replicate should antiretroviral treatment ever stop.

The complex dynamics of how this reservoir forms, though, have been largely unknown. Scientists had thought that it formed continuously during infection prior to treatment.

Now researchers have genetic evidence that this is not the case, and that initiation of antiretroviral treatment could be altering the biology of the human immune system in such a way that it allows the HIV reservoir to form or stabilise.

UCT’s Professor Carolyn Williamson, the head of the Division of Medical Virology, who led the study with Professor Ron Swanstrom of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) commented in a phone interview with Thailand Medical News, “We hope reducing the size of the HIV reservoir will take us a step towards achieving our goal o f enabling people to stop treatment without the virus rebounding.”

Since HIV reservoirs can persist for many decades, patients are required to stay on treatment for the rest of their lives. Thus, this reservoir is a fundamental obstacle to a cure. But without an understanding of how it forms, there is little chance of ever eradicating it.

By using blood samples collected from nine South African women from the CAPRISA 002 cohort in Durban, the research team embarked on a study to understand the timing the formation of the HIV reservoir. 

The HIV   virus evolves very rapidly: it’s one of the fastest evolving entities known. Not only does it reproduce quickly in a person, the virus can produce billions of copies a day, but its genetic copying is sloppy, introducing mutations as it goes. But this characteristic of