FRIDAY, October 29, 2021 (HealthDay News) – There are two ways the bodies of HIV-positive patients can keep the virus under control after stopping antiretroviral therapy, according to a new study.
The findings could point to ways to help people living with HIV keep the virus in remission without having to continue taking drugs that may have long-term side effects, researchers at the U.S. National Allergy Institute say. and infectious diseases (NIAID).
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID, and Tae-Wook Chun, head of its HIV immunovirology section, co-led the study.
They were two adults with HIV who started antiretroviral therapy (ART) shortly after becoming infected with the virus that causes AIDS. They continued the treatment for over six years and were able to suppress the virus.
They then joined a clinical trial and stopped taking ART under medical supervision. One patient was followed for four years and the other for more than five years, with assessments every two to three weeks.
The researchers were looking for when and how big the viral rebounds were in each – that is, when the levels of HIV in their blood became detectable.
In one patient, viral suppression lasted for nearly three and a half years, with occasional rebounds in virus counts. The other patient had almost complete suppression of HIV for almost four years, but then had a strong relapse when he was infected with a different strain of HIV, a condition called “superinfection”.
In the first patient, researchers found high levels of HIV-specific immune cells called CD8 + T cells that can kill cells infected with the virus.
The second patient had a weaker CD8 + T cell response against HIV, but a very strong neutralizing antibody response until the sudden viral rebound.
This suggests that different mechanisms were at work in each patient, the researchers said in a press release from NIAID.
According to the study, neutralizing antibodies may have played an important role in almost completely suppressing HIV until the second patient was infected with a different strain of the virus.
Research also shows that superinfection with HIV is a potential cause of a sudden virological breakthrough in people living with HIV who stop ART, especially after a prolonged period of virus suppression.
The results were published on October 28 in the journal Natural medicine.
The US National Institutes of Health explains how to stay healthy with HIV.
SOURCE: US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, press release, October 28, 2021