A study published in Nature Medicine revealed two mechanisms that allow the body to control HIV replication without the help of the currently approved antiretroviral drugs.
A study, led by Anthony Fauci and a colleague in the Department of Immunovirology Tae-Wook Chun, revealed two mechanisms by which the body can control HIV infection without antiretroviral drugs. This discovery was made possible by close medical monitoring of two HIV-positive patients who had stopped the treatment they had been taking for more than six years. For several years, the doctors monitored for HIV resurgence, that is when virions were detectable again in the blood. The details of the study are published in Nature Medicine.
The first patient was monitored for three and a half years until he resumed his antiretroviral treatment without informing the research team. During these years, the patient’s immunity was able to control the multiplication of the virus, although HIV did reappear. Scientists observed in this patient a very high level of TCD8 lymphocytes capable of destroying HIV-infected cells.
The second patient kept his HIV status secret for almost four years until he contracted another strain of HIV in a phenomenon called superinfection. This superinfection has led to a sudden resurgence of the virus. The mechanism at work here is not the same as in the first patient. In the second patient, the CDT8 levels were not very high, however, he had very effective HIV-specific neutralizing antibodies. The scientists believe that these are particularly effective at almost completely stopping HIV replication.
These results may point to new tools or protocols for controlling HIV replication without resorting to antiretroviral drugs, which have significant side effects when taken for a long time.
The advances made in the last 3 decades have made HIV a manageable disease instead of the death sentence it used to be. Still the current treatments come with some severe side effects. Until a vaccine to prevent people from getting HIV in the first place has been developed, research must continue into finding ways to cure the infected from this scourge.