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HIV hides in gut to escape attack

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HIV is able to survive drug attack by hiding out in the gut lining, US scientists have discovered.
Even when blood tests suggested antiretroviral treatment was working, the virus continued to replicate in the gut, suppressing immune function.

Writing in the Journal of Virology, the authors recommend earlier, aggressive drug treatment to combat this.

The University of California team also suggest monitoring patients with gut biopsies as well as blood tests.

Theirs is the first study to show that, while current HIV therapy is quite successful in reducing viral loads and increasing the number of immune T-cells to fight the infection in peripheral blood, it is not so effective in gut mucosa.

  The gut is acting as a viral reservoir that keeps us from ridding patients of the virus

Lead researcher Dr Satya Dandekar

Dr Satya Dandekar and her team followed 10 patients being treated with highly active antiretroviral therapy, known as HAART.

They took blood and gut samples from the patients before and after three years of treatment. Three of the patients had been treated very early, within four to six weeks of first being infected with the virus, whereas the others had been infected for at least a year before receiving treatment.

The patients who had been treated earlier had fewer signs of gut inflammation before treatment and experienced greater recovery of the gut mucosal immune system function after treatment than the other patients.

Viral reservoir

Dr Dandekar explained: "We found a substantial delay in the time that it takes to restore the gut mucosal immune system in those with chronic infections.

"In these patients the gut is acting as a viral reservoir that keeps us from ridding patients of the virus."

She said the results suggested anti-inflammatory drugs might improve antiretroviral treatment outcomes and that genes involved with the repair and regeneration of the gut mucosal immune system would make excellent drug targets.

A spokeswoman from the HIV charity AVERT said: "This research offers an enlightening insight into one of the ways that HIV evades drugs in the body, and if further studies show that anti-inflammatory drugs improve the efficacy of antiretrovirals, they could prove a very useful addition to HIV therapy.

"However, the researchers' suggestion of starting HIV treatment earlier will need to be weighed up against the risk of earlier drug resistance forming, and the difficulties of drug toxicity and side effects before it is considered for adoption as standard medical practice."

Mary Lima, a treatment specialist at the Terrence Higgins Trust, agreed. She said: "At this stage we have to be cautious as starting treatment earlier, taking anti-inflammatory drugs and having gut biopsies would put an additional burden on people living with HIV.

"However, it's really important that research into this area continues so we can understand more about HIV and how it could be treated in future."

It took scientists 25 years to discover this...

Anyway, could this turn out to be the real culprit, the reservoir for chronic infection? Imagine if it turns out to be this simple, develop a drug regime that targets the virus hiding in the gut and bingo, you're cured...time will tell I suppose.


--- Quote from: J220 on August 04, 2006, 12:17:50 PM ---It took scientists 25 years to discover this...

--- End quote ---

You know, statements like that frustrate me. What do you think we are doing? Wasting time?

Regardless, it's a fact. And the statement can be read in a variety of ways, for example, it can be meant as a comment on how insidious the virus is, while it can also be meant in the content that yes, researchers have been incompetently behind the curve for all these years. It's all in the eye of the beholder. But for the record, I did mean it in the latter sense.


We thank you for your kind comments. Despite the fact that the techniques that led to this discovery were only invented recently and weren't available or thought of 25 years ago. I don't know what people think scientists do but sitting in the office twddling thumbs or playing keystone cops with test tubes it ain't. What's the point of looking for a cure if people just think you are stupid and wasting time. I'd happily give up my place in science if you or anyone else think you could do it better or faster.

My eyes saw your comment for what it was. Given the way it was put it could hardly mean the former.



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