Scientists have taken crucial steps in their quest for
finding a remedy for HIV by finding clues about how the virus manages to
evade detection after being suppressed by drugs.
at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland,
made the announcement on Wednesday after they analyzed blood samples
from 25 patients with the human immunodeficiency virus, AFP reported.
being treated by antiretroviral drugs, the sleeping virus harbors
mutations that help it skirt detection by the immune system.
Now, scientists have voiced hope that the immune system can be trained to spot the peril and destroy it.
A Pakistani mother sits next to her HIV+ son, receiving blood at a medical center in Peshawar.
the infection is rolled back, HIV hides in a component of the immune
system, called memory CD4 T cells, lurking there to rebound once the
therapy is stopped.
The research, originally published in the Nature journal, touches upon the “kick-and-kill” strategy.
results suggest that luring HIV out of hiding is winning only half the
battle,” said Robert Siliciano, a professor of molecular biology at the
university, adding, “We found that these pools of dormant virus carry
mutations that render HIV invisible to the very immune cells capable of
disarming it, so even when the virus comes out of hiding, it continues
to evade immune detection.”
Out of the 25 HIV+ patients the
researchers studied at the university, 10 had undergone early therapy
and 15 had started the drugs only after the virus entered a chronic
Almost no mutations were detected in the virus inside the
bodies of early initiators of the therapy, while the others had HIV
stuffed with “escape mutations.”
Still, the virus had retained a
tiny bit of its original viral protein, left non-mutated, in the bodies
of the late initiators of the therapy.
uninfected immune cells to the virus of both kinds and managed to kill
23 percent of the cells with escape mutations and 61 percent of the ones
in the early initiators.
“It’s as if the immune system had lost
its ability to spot and destroy the virus, but priming killer T cells
that recognize a different, non-mutated portion of HIV’s protein
reawakened that natural killer instinct,” Siliciano said.