Researchers from Ghent University Hospital (UZ Gent) have taken an important step towards the total eradication of HIV. Its hiding place, its viral reservoir, has finally been discovered.
For some years now, thanks to the latest generations of antiretrovirals, people with the AIDS virus have been able to lead a relatively normal life, but there is a viral “reservoir” in the body. “Until now, the HIV was hiding in specific cells in the body and therefore remained below the radar,” explain UZ Gent researchers, Marie-Angélique De Scheerder and Linos Vandekerckhove. “Consequently, if the patient stops taking the HIV inhibitors, the virus can reappear from these cells and cause an increase in viral load, a viral rebound.”
According to the two scientists from Ghent, this scientific discovery could lead to more detailed research on HIV because, “Our study has shown that, contrary to what we thought until now, the immune cells that actively divide are co-responsible for this viral reservoir. It also shows that the viral rebound does not come from a single organ or specific cell type but can come from different types of cells and body parts, such as blood, lymph nodes and intestinal tissue.”
A new battle has therefore been won against this disease which is now considered as chronic rather than life-threatening, due to new treatments which unfortunately remain very expensive. But scientists have not yet won the war. Even now, over 37 million people worldwide are affected by HIV/AIDS.