Scientists zoom in on AIDS virus hideout

March 15, 2017
HIV-1 Virus. Credit: J Roberto Trujillo/Wikipedia

French scientists said Wednesday they had found a way to pinpoint elusive white blood cells which provide a hideout for the AIDS virus in people taking anti-HIV drugs.

Being able to spot, and one day neutralise, these "reservoir" cells has long been a holy grail in the quest to wipe out AIDS and the (HIV) that causes it.

The discovery "paves the way to a better fundamental understanding of viral reservoirs," said France's CNRS research institute, which took part in the study published in Nature.

"In the longer term, it should lead to therapeutic strategies aiming to eliminate the latent virus," it added in a statement.

There is no cure for HIV, and infected people have to take virus-suppressing drugs for life.

This is because a small number of , in a category of cell called CD4 T lymphocytes, provide a haven for the virus, enabling it to re-emerge and spread if treatment is stopped— even after decades.

In tests using the blood of HIV patients, the researchers managed to spot a protein, dubbed CD32a, on the surface of virus-infected reservoir cells.

It was absent from .

Such a "marker" has proved very difficult to find, explained AIDS researcher Douglas Richman from the University of California San Diego, who did not take part in the study.

A person infected with HIV has about 200 billion CD4 T cells, of which only one in a million act as virus reservoirs.

Two percent of the body's CD4 T cells (some four billion) are found in the approximately five litres of blood in an adult human, said Richman.

This means that a 100-millilitre blood sample would contain about 80 million CD4 T cells, of which around 80 would be virus reservoirs.

Whether CD32a plays an active part in enabling the to hole up in CD4 cells is a big question.

If so, it could throw open a tempting target for drugs to block the stealthy process.

While describing the study as "potentially seminal", Richman cautioned that CD32a was a marker found in only about half of CD4 T reservoir cells.

To eradicate latent HIV would require the targeting of a much larger proportion.

It also remains to be seen whether CD32a is as good a marker for non-blood CD4 T in the lymph nodes, bone marrow, gut and other tissues which could be reservoirs, he added.

Explore further: Immune-enhancing treatment may destabilize HIV reservoirs

More information: Benjamin Descours et al. CD32a is a marker of a CD4 T-cell HIV reservoir harbouring replication-competent proviruses, Nature (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nature21710

Related Stories

Immune-enhancing treatment may destabilize HIV reservoirs

July 21, 2016
Although antiretroviral therapy (ART) can reduce the amount of HIV in the blood to an undetectable level in most chronically infected people, it cannot eliminate reservoirs of HIV that persist in latently infected immune ...

Study observes potential breakthrough in treatment of HIV

June 17, 2016
A new study conducted by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC) observes that pharmacological enhancement of the immune systems of HIV patients could help eliminate infected cells, providing an important ...

HIV 'safe houses' identified

July 14, 2016
Researchers from the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center (CRCHUM) have identified cells that provide "safe houses" for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) during antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Targeting dormant HIV

September 19, 2016
Discovery of a novel, advanced technique to identify the rare cells where human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) hides in patients taking antiretroviral therapy (ART). This is an important step forward in the search for a HIV/AIDS ...

Targeting HIV 'reservoir' could be first step to understanding how to cure the disease

December 1, 2015
A new clinical trial will test whether it is possible to destroy hidden reservoirs of HIV virus that are a key obstacle to curing the disease.

Identification of drug combinations that reverse HIV-1 latency

March 30, 2015
There are almost 40 million people throughout the world living with HIV-1/AIDs. While current antiretroviral therapies are able to reduce the amount of virus in the blood, HIV remains present in a latent state within T cells. ...

Recommended for you

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 ...

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.

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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.