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New Strategy Eyed for AIDS Treatment

Discovery of HIV hiding places may pave way for novel therapies

MONDAY, June 22 (HealthDay News) -- A radical new therapy could improve treatment of people with HIV-AIDS by destroying the viruses circulating in the body as well as those hiding in immune system cells, according to a new study.

A team of American and Canadian researchers have high hopes for a combination of targeted chemotherapy and what's known as highly active anti-retroviral (HAART) treatments.

When HIV viruses hide in immune cells, the researchers explained, existing HAART treatments can't reach them. But the study identified where HIV hides in immune cells and the "stealth" mechanisms that enable the virus to elude existing treatments. This finding could lead to new therapies that are different than current treatments, they said.

"Our results argue in favor of a strategy similar to the one used against leukemia, which is targeted chemotherapy, associated with a targeted immune treatment," study co-leader Dr. Rafick-Pierre Sekaly, a professor at the University of Montreal and scientific director of the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute of Florida, said in a university news release. "This would make it possible to destroy the cells containing a virus while giving the immune system time to regenerate with healthy cells."

Another co-leader, Dr. Jean-Pierre Routy, an infection and immunity researcher at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, explained the importance of the finding.

"For the first time, this study proves that the HIV reservoirs are not due to a lack of potency of the antiretroviral drugs but to the virus hiding inside two different types of long-life CD4 memory immune cells," Routy said in the news release. "There are several types of HIV reservoirs, each necessitating a different treatment to eliminate them."

The researchers acknowledged, however, that it will take many more years of work before the finding might lead to new treatments for people with HIV-AIDS.

The study appears in the journal Nature Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about HIV-AIDS treatment.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Montreal, news release, June 21, 2009

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