A Johns Hopkins expert in HIV and how the AIDS virus hides in the body says antiretroviral drugs have stopped HIV from replicating, the first of three key steps needed to rid people of the virus.
In an address to be delivered Aug. 6 at the XVII International Conference on AIDS, taking place in Mexico City, infectious disease specialist Robert Siliciano, M.D., Ph.D., says current drug-combination therapies can stop HIV in its tracks, with some combos suppressing its ability to make copies to less than one in a billion.
But, he says, progress is still needed in identifying where viral reservoirs persist and in finding ways to eliminate these HIV hiding places.
Indeed, it was Siliciano’s team at Hopkins in 1995 that confirmed the existence of these reservoirs in immune system CD4 memory T-cells – those left behind, after an initial infection, to fight recurrences. The CD4s concentrate in the lymph nodes and spleen. Siliciano suggests that other as yet unverified viral pools could exist, citing previous studies at Johns Hopkins that, in 2006, identified adult stem cells and progenitor cells as potential hideaways for HIV.
According to Siliciano, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, laboratory models that mimic HIV infection in these reservoir cells are key to finding drugs that can eliminate them.
“We know now that HIV can be stopped,” says Siliciano. “Our next steps are to go after these reservoirs of HIV. And although much work needs to be done to find and eliminate them, infected people who have access to antiretroviral drugs and who take them as prescribed stand a good chance of leading normal lives.”
Siliciano points out that if antiretroviral drugs can be made more accessible, affordable and less toxic, then infected people who take the drugs correctly will not develop AIDS
Release date: August 6, 2008
Source: John Hopkins Medical Institutions
Filed Under: Drug Discovery