Saturday, October 27, 2007

HIV Research Breakthrough

An interesting item on the ABC on HIV research in Australia.

The research at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne is focused on uncovering HIV and how it replicates and the implications of latent cells.

The director of infectious diseases at the Alfred, Professor Sharon Lewin, says one of the problems with HIV is that it hides from the immune system, but the team has found a new way of investigating this.

"[HIV] actually is quite clever in that in addition to actually infecting and killing a cell, it can also hide within a cell, and it does that because it's able to integrate, or enter into the person's DNA," she said.

"There's not many viruses that can do that. Once it's in the DNA of the cell, the cell can no longer spit it out, basically, and it will stay there for the life of the cell."

Professor Lewin says these "latent" cells, which carry the HIV code, are the reason HIV cannot be cured.

"The minute you stop the drugs, those cells that carry the pieces of HIV genetics in its own DNA can then in effect refuel the fire of HIV replication," she said.

"People initially thought that if you were on treatment long enough, you'd just wait until those infected cells die off, and then perhaps you could be on treatment for 10 years.

"But once we developed ways of measuring those latently infected cells, the calculations now are you'd need to be on treatment for 60 years, so effectively lifelong treatment, unless we develop ways to target those latently infected cells."

Read the whole article here.

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