Researchers at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) and Simon Fraser University, in partnership with the University of British Columbia and Western University, have developed a novel way for dating “hibernating” HIV strains, in an advancement for HIV cure research in the province. Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research confirms that dormant HIV strains, which have integrated their DNA into that of the body’s cells, can persist in the body for decades and can reactivate many years later, which is why HIV treatment needs to be maintained for life. The study confirms that the latent HIV reservoir is genetically diverse and can contain viral strains dating back to transmission.
In order to date dormant HIV strains within the viral reservoir, researchers needed to compare these strains with those that evolved within an individual living with HIV over the entire history of their infection.
The research provides further clues in the pursuit of an HIV cure, which will ultimately require the complete eradication of dormant HIV strains, which are unreachable by antiretroviral treatments and the immune system. Through advances in antiretroviral therapy, an individual living with HIV can now live a longer, healthier life on treatment, which works by stopping HIV from infecting new cells. On sustained treatment, individuals can achieve a level of virus that is undetectable by standard blood tests, and an undetectable viral load means improved health and that the virus is not transmittable to others.
This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in partnership with the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research and the International AIDS Society, as well as the US National Institutes of Health. Dr Zabrina Brumme, Director, Laboratory with BC-CfE is lead author on the study.
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