Approaches to HIV Eradication
Toulon, France, August 30, 2011 - What can be done about HIV eradication? The advancements in scientific technology and medical treatments have made significant progress in managing HIV and making it a chronic condition in most patients; however, the next logical step toward a cure has been elusive. Researchers have been working hard for the past few years on closing the gap between manageable disease and functional cure, and several different approaches have been explored or are currently being discussed. While antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been effective against HIV virus out in the open bloodstream, there are pockets of HIV that lie dormant in cells until antiretroviral therapy ceases, which allow them to become active again. These pockets are called HIV reservoirs. The approaches to HIV eradication focus mainly on how to deal with these reservoirs.
Let's talk about some of the discussed approaches; seven of them to be exact. On one approach, ART is started before HIV has a chance to establish reservoirs. This normally takes place when a person is just infected with HIV (acute HIV infection), very early in the process. The hope is to stop viruses before reservoirs can be established. In another approach, ART is intensified greatly in order to stop completely HIV replication. An alternate strategy is to activate dormant T-cells so the remaining HIV reservoirs can be flushed out and eliminated.
There are also strategies that deal with preventing the virus from infecting additional cells directly. If the HIV reservoirs can't be eliminated, one approach involves keeping the reservoirs dormant forever, keeping the HIV from ever replicating again. This means finding ways to disable the virus's ability to replicate. Alternatively, a sixth strategy protects the uninfected cells from ever being infected. The seventh discussed approach attempts to strengthen the body's natural immune system when exposed to HIV, very much like how a vaccine works.
The various approaches to HIV eradication all address a problem, and that problem is the HIV reservoir. HIV reservoirs have been called the last hiding place for HIV within the body. The final step toward finding a functional cure for HIV lies in dealing with HIV reservoirs. The dormant viruses hiding in these places make it very easy for a person's viral load to increase dramatically if ART is stopped even for a short time. Therefore, in conjunction with ART, one of the known possible approaches for HIV eradication—or possibly approaches that haven't been thought of yet—will become increasingly important to develop and implement.
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