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

lood measurements of viral load and T-cell counts when choosing a course of treatment. Viral load is the number of viral particles in a milliliter sample of blood. T-cell counts reflect the number of CD4+ T-cells in the sample. These cells, also called T-helper cells, organize the immune system's attack on disease-causing invaders. They are, however, the targets of the virus and their numbers decrease as the amount of HIV increases, leaving the body vulnerable to a variety of infections.

Last year, Dandekar's team published a study of HIV-infected patients who, despite the lack of treatment, had survived over 10 years with healthy levels of T-cells and suppressed viral loads.

"We looked at their gut lymphoid tissue and did not see loss of T-cells there. This correlated with better clinical outcomes," Dandekar explained.

Those results prompted Dandekar and her team to undertake the current study in which they set out to evaluate the effect of highly active antiretroviral therapy, known as HAART, on viral suppression and immune restoration in gut-associated lymphoid tissue. They followed 10 patients being treated with HAART, taking blood and gut samples before and after three years of treatment. Three of the patients were treated during four to six weeks of first being infected with the virus. The other participants were known to be HIV positive for more than one year.

Hoping to figure out why HAART does not work as well in the gut, Dandekar and her colleagues further examined the post-treatment of gut-associated lymphoid tissue samples. They found evidence of inflammation, which disrupts tissue function, promotes cell death and upsets the normal balance of gut flora. They also found that the activity of genes that control and promote mucosal repair and regeneration were suppressed, while the genes responsible for the inflammatory response were more active than in normal tissue.

Dandekar said these results suggest anti-inf
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Source:University of California, Davis - Health System


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