Understanding HIV Latency May Lead to Treatment Development

Gina Kokosky, Editorial Intern
Published Online: Tuesday, March 13th, 2018
This article was originally published by Specialty Pharmacy Times.

HIV affects more than 1 million Americans, and while scientists have made progress in discovering effective new therapies, there is no known cure.

The virus can hide within cells, preventing the body’s immune system and antiretroviral therapy (ART) from detecting the infection. New findings highlight a need to understand the latency mechanisms of HIV in order to develop a treatment, according to a study published by Science Translational Medicine. 

“Knowing what mechanisms keep these latently infected cells silent would help us develop a therapy to either wake them up and kill them or silence them permanently,” said lead author Steven Yukl, MD. “Until we figure out what keeps them latent, we can’t cure HIV.”

HIV takes over CD4 T cells of the immune system and rewires them to produce copies of the virus. A small portion of infected cells become latent instead of making viruses, according to the study. This dormancy not only remains a mystery to scientists, but makes it incredibly challenging to detect infected cells.

“We can’t even separate out uninfected from infected cells, let alone latently infected cells,” Dr Yukl said. “Latently infected cells are extremely rare—one in 1 million CD4 T cells—and we don’t know how to identify them.”

Latent cells can remain dormant for decades until they start producing copies of the virus in the absence of ART, according to the study.

For more information about the study and its results, visit SpecialtyPharmacyTimes.com.

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