Scientists found a protein that flags up immune cells harbouring hidden pools of the AIDS-causing virus – one of the reasons a cure has remained elusive. While current drugs can keep HIV at bay, a few cells remain infected, so HIV cannot be cured.
Roughly one in a million CD4 T cells in an individual receiving antiretroviral therapy is latently infected. In lab experiments on the blood samples of 12 HIV patients his researchers analysed immune cells called CD4 T that produced a green fluorescent protein when they were infected.
This pinpointed the CD32a lymphocytes – white blood cells that protect the body from infection – that were only expressed on the surface of dormant HIV cells.
Virologist Dr Monsef Benkirane, of Montpellier University in France, said: ‘The persistence of the HIV reservoir in infected individuals is a major obstacle to the development of a cure for HIV-1.”
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