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article imageHIV continues to grow despite treatment

By Tim Sandle     Aug 10, 2015 in Science
Liverpool - HIV is adept at avoiding treatment by hiding out in blood cells. This occurs even when a patient is responding well to treatment, according to a new research study.
The key finding from an investigation into the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is that the virus can remain hidden inside the blood cells that initiate the immune response in the human body (termed CD4 Tlymphocytes.) The virus achieves this cloaking method by inserting its genetic information inside the DNA of the blood cells. This data was drawn over a 14-year period, by studying different people, undergoing different treatments.
This means the virus can continue to grow in patients, even when they appear to be responding well to antiretroviral drugs. In general, across the 14-year study, the level of HIV residing within the blood cells remained unaltered across the 14 year period of infection, for each patient studied.
The reason for this remarkable act of viral subterfuge is because each time a CD4 cell multiplies to produce more cells, it also copies the HIV genes, ensuring continual replication of the virus.
Over the past few years antiretroviral therapy has become very advanced, leading to some patients having the HIV infection suppressed to near undetectable levels. Some researchers thought that after multiple rounds of treatment, the human body could “naturally purge itself” of the virus. This new study suggests that this is unlikely, given the presence of undiminished levels of HIV in the CD4 blood cells.
Whether this finding will lead to a new trance of research whereby the hiding HIV in the CD4 cells can be attacked is unknown. The news has come as a disappointment to many HV researchers. The only positive news is that the level of hidden does not seem increase, meaning that continual treatments with antiretroviral drugs can continue to help patients lead healthy lives.
The research was carried out at the University of Liverpool. The findings have been published in the journal EBioMedicine. The paper is titled “During Stably Suppressive Antiretroviral Therapy Integrated HIV-1 DNA Load in Peripheral Blood is Associated with the Frequency of CD8 Cells Expressing HLA-DR/DP/DQ.”
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