July 18, 2017
Written by Ben Thompson
This article originally appeared on VOA News.
Researchers working on a one-two punch to eliminate HIV say their first punch has landed and they can start working on the second, though plenty of work will be needed on both fronts before a cure is available.
HIV spreads just like other viruses: It takes over a cell’s DNA and uses the cell’s infrastructure to make copies of itself. Most HIV treatments work by blocking new cells from getting infected.
The cells that are actively producing HIV are constantly being killed, either by HIV or by the immune system. So once you stop new cells from getting infected, the patient can achieve a viral load close to zero.
Viral reservoir remains hidden
That’s not a total cure though, because some HIV-infected cells go into a resting state, and stop actively producing the virus. This viral reservoir remains hidden from the immune system. The problem is that if treatment stops, the latent virus will eventually reactivate and the disease will be able to spread again.