While these reservoirs are not always well understood, researchers believe they have begun to decode how a reservoir of infection can persist in HIV-positive populations. They propose that a type of HIV infection that uses infected cells to get close to uninfected cells and then discharge a large load of virus on them, may be the reason small populations of HIV-infected cells hang in even when antiretroviral drug treatment has been successful in suppressing most other infections.
For chronic infections such as HIV, the end game for scientists is to remove “chronic” from the disease’s name—by finding a cure. Many believe better understanding of viral reservoirs may be the key to eradicating them, and thus the disease.
So for the current study, published in the journal Nature, researchers led by David Baltimore, professor of biology at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) started at the beginning of the process, looking for clues into how an HIV reservoir is formed in the first place.
There are two known ways that HIV can infect cells, and the human body: cell-free transmission, in which the virus infects immune system cells called T cells it encounters while floating free in plasma; and cell-to-cell transmission, in which the virus moves between T cells by using an infected donor cell as its vehicle.
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