B.C. Experts Find Various Strains Of HIV “Time Bombs” In A Latent State In Cells

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We may be one step closer to cure HIV. The latest study confirms that the latent HIV reservoir is genetically diverse and it can include viral strains that are dating back to the transmission.

HIV is continually evolving and while it’s active, it’s storing versions of itself in the DNA of infected cells that will go dormant waiting to be reactivated at some point in the future. Zabrina Brumme, director of the HIV/AIDS lab at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. Sees all this like a genetic “time bomb.”

Brad Jones, a Ph.D. student who is involved in the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and Simon Fraser University study, said that researchers “created a highly calibrated ‘time machine’ that gives us a specific time stamp for when each dormant HIV strain originally appeared in a person.”

This allowed scientists to construct a family tree of the virus in each one of the patients in order to see how it evolved right from when the virus was contracted, even decades earlier.

Eradicating the virus from cells

This discovery is not a cure, but the study will give scientists a clearer picture of how challenging it will be to eradicate the virus from a patient’s cells.

“If you can’t identify it, you can’t cure it,” said Brumme, who was the study’s lead author.

So, eliminating the virus from a patient would require a way to remove not just a single version of the virus from archive cells, but the whole evolutionary history of the virus.

“Curative strategies will need to address this new study’s key findings,” said Julio Montaner, Director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Zabrina Brumme, director of the HIV/AIDS lab at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS

The dormant versions of the virus are untraceable with antiretroviral therapy, and this is the reason for which HIV treatment has to be maintained during the entire life.

To eradicate HIV from the body, you must first know the characteristics of HIV is the latent reservoir. A cure would definitely require more therapies at the same time, and it will involve personalized treatments.


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