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article imageBig step towards an HIV cure

By Tim Sandle     Jun 1, 2017 in Science
How can the quest for a cure for HIV be achieved if there is no sure test to show that the virus has been eliminated from the body? This could be set to change. Scientists have announced a test sensitive enough to detect 'hidden' HIV.
The new test springs from the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. The new test is said to be sufficiently sensitive to detect 'hidden' HIV, and also faster, less labor-intensive and less expensive, than the current methods for detecting viral particles (which are quantitative viral outgrowth assays).
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is well characterized. It is a type of retrovirus called a lentivirus; and infection from the virus leads, without treatment, to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is a progressive failure of the immune system. Antiretroviral therapies designed to treat HIV are sufficiently advanced so that those with HIV can have the virus well-controlled and this allows those infected to live a relatively normal life, provided that medications are taken regularly.
Complications in assessing the extent to which the virus has been removed from the body HIV relate to the way the virus infects white blood cells called CD4+ T cells. To address the hidden virus a new test has been developed. This is called TZA. The test functions by detecting a gene that is switched on only when replicating HIV is present. Results are obtained within one week (which is two weeks faster than current methods).
READ MORE: Progress made on developing HIV vaccine
While the new method is more efficient, the test has worryingly revealed that the quantity of the virus remaining in patients declared to be viral dormant (that is 'nearly cured' of HIV) is around 70-fold greater than previous estimates.
The new test has been reported to the journal Nature Medicine. The research paper is titled "Novel assay reveals a large, inducible, replication-competent HIV-1 reservoir in resting CD4 T cells."
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