Leading HIV Researcher Identifies Molecular Mechanism That Enhances NaturalImmune Defense Against HIV Infection

SAN FRANCISCO -- Enthusiasm about the "cocktail" of drugs so successfully suppressing the advance of HIV in infected people has been shadowed recently by warnings from a leading HIV researcher at UC San Francisco that the drugs don't address the ultimate concern.

That concern, said UCSF's Jay Levy, MD, one of the discoverers of HIV and a leader in understanding its mechanisms, is the need to eradicate HIV from infected cells, so that these protected reservoirs of the virus will not be able to allow the emergence of drug-resistant strains. Current therapies simply prevent the spread of HIV to new cells.

To address the larger issue, said Levy, research should focus on what appears to be a natural immunity to the virus in some people. These infected individuals remain healthy for more than 15 years without any treatment. Being able to induce their type of immune response could ultimately lead to the development of a synthetic vaccine that could prevent the virus infection, Levy said.

Today, April 19, at the Federation of the American Society of Experimental Biology (FASEB) meeting here, Levy's colleagues Sharon Stranford, PhD, and Edward Barker, PhD, both postdoctoral fellows in Levy's laboratory, presented their latest findings not only on the molecular basis of this apparent natural immune response, but on a molecular mechanism that enhances it.

"This line of research holds some promise," said Levy, UCSF professor of medicine and director of the Tumor and AIDS Virus Research Laboratory. "I believe the present approach to controlling HIV is doomed to fail. There is no restoration of the immune system in the treated people and the virus will eventually become resistant to the drugs."

Already, Levy pointed out, several people on drug treatment have resumed production of high levels of drug-resistant virus.

"Unless anti-AIDS treatments also attack the infected cells, as could be initiated

Contact: Jennifer O'Brien
(415) 476-2557
University of California - San Francisco

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