B.C. Researchers Discover Ways To Identify Dormant HIV “Time Bombs”

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Researchers at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS have just discovered a method to find different strains of HIV that are dormant in the cells.

When active, HIV evolves and stores many versions of itself into the DNA of the cells it has infected. These cells go dormant and wait to be reactivated. The director of the HIV/AIDS lab at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, Zabrina Brumme, who is also the lead author of this research, explains that these cells are genetically archives of “time bombs.”

Brumme and Ph.D. student Brad Jones (Simon Fraser University), who is also part of the study, said that the team “created a highly calibrated ‘time machine’ that gives us a specific time stamp for when each dormant HIV strain originally appeared in a person.”

With this method, they could construct the virus’ family tree in each patient and watch the way it evolved in time, from the time it was contracted, and even decades earlier.

Scientists agree that they’re a long way from the cure, but the study helps them know more about the virus, explains Brumme:

“If you can’t identify it, you can’t cure it”

She explains that to eliminate the virus from a person, they will have to find a way and remove it all the evolutionary history of the virus in that person.

The Director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, Julio Montaner, concluded that:

“Curative strategies will need to address this new study’s key findings.”

The problem with the hibernating versions of the virus is that they cannot be treated with antiretroviral treatment, meaning that the patients will have to continue HIV treatment for the rest of their lives. A cure for HIV would need many types of simultaneous therapy and individualized treatment, probably based on the strains of HIV found in that person’s cells.

Doris’s passion for writing started to take shape in college where she was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. Even though she ended up working in IT for more than 7 years, she’s now back to what he always enjoyed doing. With a true passion for technology, Doris mostly covers tech-related topics.