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UC Davis study finds HIV hiding from drugs in gut, preventing immune recovery

UC Davis researchers have discovered that the human immunodeficiency virus, the virus that causes AIDS, is able to survive efforts to destroy it by hiding out in the mucosal tissues of the intestine. They also found that HIV continues to replicate in the gut mucosa, suppressing immune function in patients being treated with antiretroviral therapy--even when blood samples from the same individuals indicated the treatment was working. Results of the three-year study appear in the August issue of the Journal of Virology (available online today at http://jvi.asm.org).

"This is the first longitudinal study to show that, while current HIV therapy is quite successful in reducing viral loads and increasing T-cells in peripheral blood, it is not so effective in gut mucosa," said Satya Dandekar, professor and chair of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at UC Davis Health System and senior author of the study.

"The real battle between the virus and exposed individuals is happening in the gut immediately after viral infection," she said. "We need to be focusing our efforts on improving treatment of gut mucosa, where massive destruction of immune cells is occurring. Gut-associated lymphoid tissue accounts for 70 percent of the body's immune system. Restoring its function is crucial to ridding the body of the virus."

Results of the study suggest that patients being treated with antiretroviral therapy should be monitored using gut biopsies and that the gut's immune function be restored through earlier antiretroviral treatment and the use of anti-inflammatory medications.

"We found a substantial delay in the time that it takes to restore the gut mucosal immune system in those with chronic infections," Dandekar said. "In these patients the gut is acting as a viral reservoir that keeps us from ridding patients of the virus."

Physicians treating HIV-infected patients have long relied on b
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Source:University of California, Davis - Health System


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