The replication-competent HIV-1 latent reservoir is primarily established near the time of therapy initiation
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Antiretroviral therapy for HIV may be responsible for the formation of a stable reservoir of the virus in immune cells.
HIV can be treated but not cured. That is because the virus lurks in the DNA of certain immune cells after antiretroviral therapy starts. While this hidden reservoir of the virus is nearly undetectable, it can lead to HIV quickly bouncing back if therapy is stopped. Little is known about how the reservoir forms.
Now, a team led by researchers at the University of Cape Town has analyzed the genetic sequences of HIV in blood samples from nine women before and after they started treatment. The results showed that the HIV reservoir after treatment mostly reflects that prior to treatment, suggesting that the treatment either somehow gives rise to the reservoir or stabilizes it.
This finding could enable researchers to find interventions that can whittle down the size of the reservoir.