In Depth

Drug flushes out hidden AIDS virus

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Science  06 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6226, pp. 1056
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6226.1056-a

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Purge the reservoirs! That's the battle cry of HIV researchers attempting to cure infected people, and a novel drug study in monkeys took important steps toward that elusive goal. The reservoir refers to cells that harbor latent HIV DNA woven into their chromosomes that are impervious to antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and invisible to the immune system. Researchers have been searching for drugs that "shock" latent HIV to produce new viruses, which would kill those reservoir cells or target them for immune destruction. This new drug targets what's known as toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) on immune cells. Researchers infected four monkeys with the simian AIDS virus, treated with the ARVs to fully suppress the infections, and then tried to mop up the reservoirs with the TLR7 drug. Although they did not cure the animals, they showed that the drug led their cells to spit out so much virus that it became easy to find in their blood. They also found decreases in HIV DNA levels—a proxy for the reservoir—in tissues of three of the four animals.

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