The search for a cure for HIV is an ongoing endeavor, and a global one. New research into viral reservoirs led by Arhaus University Hospital in Denmark is a multi-national effort to explore if drugs already available for HIV treatment can be used in new ways to achieve remission without life-long antiviral/antiretroviral treatment.
HIV Viral Reservoirs
Since its discovery in the 1980s, HIV has been a difficult virus to fight because it can essentially “hide” in the body. The virus can attach to certain cells in the immune system and remain latent (inactive). Latent cells are not detected by the immune system and are not affected by current antiviral/antiretroviral drugs. However, if antiretroviral therapy is stopped, these latent cells re-activate and infect new cells…that’s why current HIV treatment protocol involves daily drug therapy.
One of the newest approaches to finding an HIV cure focuses on finding and eliminating these viral reservoirs. The Denmark-based study will examine the use of two drugs to activate latent cells and help the body fight them, eliminating a viral reservoir that, when undetectable, poses a lifelong threat.
What Attacking Viral Reservoirs Can Achieve
What researchers in this new study are hoping to achieve is life-long remission from HIV that does not require daily drug therapy. While daily drug therapy does allow people living with HIV to live healthier, longer lives, these drugs can increase risks for other health conditions. For some people, lifelong drug therapy presents additional financial challenges.
What Still Needs to Happen
Research into attacking viral reservoirs may lead to a possible cure for those who already have HIV. The world is still looking for the “cure” that promises complete global eradication of the virus, a cure that could be taken prophylactically or subsequent to transmission without adverse effect.