Turn to the Review section of this week’s Science and you’ll find a challenge to researchers in the field of HIV/AIDS: Find a way to effectively purge latent HIV infection and eliminate the need for chronic, suppresive therapy to control the disease.
The new paper, “The Challenge of a Cure for HIV Infection,” notes that chronic, highly active antiretroviral combination therapy, or HAART, has proven succesful in containing persistent HIV infection in latently infected white blood cells and scavenger cells of the immune system and in other, as yet unrecognized, “reservoirs” as well.
More than 4 million people around the globe take HAART to keep the virus in check, and according to the new paper, many are now in their second decade of treatment with levels of plasma HIV RNA below the limits of detection of clinical assays. Many enjoy a lifestyle “little encumbered by symptoms of the side effects of medications….”
But the therapy has its limits: cost, requirment of lifelong adherence, and the unknown effects of long-term treatment.
Among the Science paper’s co-authors , led by Dr. Douglas Richman, professor of pathology and medicine at the University of California, San Diego, is Dr. David Margolis, professor of medicine, microbiology and immmunology at UNC School of Medicine and professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.
In the following video, Margolis puts the team’s challenge in perspective.