Early HIV treatment fails to restore memory T cells

December 5, 2006

Most of the body’s memory T cells vanish within weeks after a person is infected with the HIV virus. In a study from the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and the Bernard-Nocht Institute appearing in the international open-access journal PLoS Medicine, researchers report that these memory T cells, mostly found in the digestive tract, tend not to return to normal even after years of treatment for HIV.

In recent years, HIV infection has been shown to deplete the body’s memory T cells quite rapidly. In particular, the memory cells in the intestinal lining are decimated within days, while the T cells usually measured in the blood fall much more gradually, typically over several years.

Although T cells in the blood can return and remain at normal levels when HIV infection is treated with antiviral drugs, it has been unclear whether the intestinal mucosal memory cells return as well. By performing intestinal biopsies on volunteers who started HIV treatment shortly after infection, the researchers found that, unlike in blood, intestinal T cells remained low even after several years of HIV treatment in 70% of volunteers, even though only a tiny fraction of these cells were found to be expressing HIV. Furthermore, they found that the level of immune activation in the gastrointestinal tract remained elevated despite treatment.

The finding that intestinal immune cells do not return to normal in most people with HIV despite years of treatment raises the concern that clinical problems will result over time. Fortunately, this does not appear to be the case in most people currently being treated for HIV, some for as long as 10 years, but the results of this study suggest that vigilance is warranted for infections or other gastrointestinal problems resulting from prolonged impairment of immunity.

These results also suggest that treatments to preserve immune function early after infection should be studied, and in particular that an HIV vaccine may need to stimulate immune responses that can act very quickly following infection, before the bulk of lymphocytes capable of countering the infection are lost.

Source: PLoS

Explore further: Breaking through the HIV vaccine 'logjam'

Related Stories

Breaking through the HIV vaccine 'logjam'

February 19, 2018
When biomolecular engineer Phil Berman began his postgraduate work in the 1980s, he had no idea he would spend the rest of his career searching for a way to stop a deadly virus that was then almost entirely known. But around ...

Infection site affects how a virus spreads through the body

February 20, 2018
A person is more likely to get infected by HIV through anal intercourse than vaginal, but no one knows quite why. A new study by scientists at the Gladstone Institutes shows that infection sites could affect the immune system's ...

HIV exports viral protein in cellular packages

February 15, 2018
HIV may be able to affect cells it can't directly infect by packaging a key protein within the host's cellular mail and sending it out into the body, according to a new study out of a University of North Carolina Lineberger ...

A new class of drug to treat herpes simplex virus-1 infection

February 14, 2018
For patients with the herpes simplex-1 virus (HSV-1), there are just a handful of drugs available to treat the painful condition that can affect the eyes, mouth and genitals.

Can gene therapy be harnessed to fight the AIDS virus?

February 13, 2018
For more than a decade, the strongest AIDS drugs could not fully control Matt Chappell's HIV infection. Now his body controls it by itself, and researchers are trying to perfect the gene editing that made this possible.

Scientists report big improvements in HIV vaccine production

February 5, 2018
Research on HIV over the past decade has led to many promising ideas for vaccines to prevent infection by the AIDS virus, but very few candidate vaccines have been tested in clinical trials. One reason for this is the technical ...

Recommended for you

Big data methods applied to the fitness landscape of the HIV envelope protein

February 7, 2018
Despite significant advances in medicine, there is still no effective vaccine for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), although recent hope has emerged through the discovery of antibodies capable of neutralizing diverse ...

Microbiome research refines HIV risk for women

January 25, 2018
Drawing from data collected for years by AIDS researchers in six African nations, scientists have pinpointed seven bacterial species whose presence in high concentrations may significantly increase the risk of HIV infection ...

Researchers find latent HIV reservoirs inherently resistant to elimination by CD8+ T-cells

January 22, 2018
The latest "kick-and-kill" research to eliminate the HIV virus uncovered a potential obstacle in finding a cure. A recent study by researchers at the George Washington University (GW) found that latent HIV reservoirs show ...

HIV-1 genetic diversity is higher in vaginal tract than in blood during early infection

January 18, 2018
A first-of-its-kind study has found that the genetic diversity of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is higher in the vaginal tract than in the blood stream during early infection. This finding, published in PLOS ...

War in Ukraine has escalated HIV spread in the country: study

January 15, 2018
Conflict in Ukraine has increased the risk of HIV outbreaks throughout the country as displaced HIV-infected people move from war-affected regions to areas with higher risk of transmission, according to analysis by scientists.

Researchers offer new model for uncovering true HIV mortality rates in Zambia

January 12, 2018
A new study that seeks to better ascertain HIV mortality rates in Zambia could provide a model for improved national and regional surveillance approaches, and ultimately, more effective HIV treatment strategies.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.