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Scientists Say Latently Infected Cells May Stoke the Fire of HIV Replication

Reservoirs of dormant HIV hiding out in the immune systems of infected individuals play a critical role in sustaining active infection, according to a new model of the dynamics of HIV infection.

Current theories hold that HIV propagates itself through rapid, continuous cycles of infection and death of activated CD4+ T cells, the virus’ primary target. In the May 26, 1998, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, William E. Paul, M.D., of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and colleagues argue that so-called latently infected cells, in which the virus lies in a quiescent state, also feed the "fire" of HIV infection.

"This is an interesting report that could help explain recent findings regarding the persistence of HIV reservoirs, and evidence of replicating HIV, in individuals whose viral loads have been driven to undetectable levels with anti-HIV drugs," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "It also raises important questions for future studies."

"Productively infected CD4+ T cells provide a fast-burning fuel for HIV replication," explains Dr. Paul, chief of NIAID’s Laboratory of Immunology. But sustaining HIV infection with this fuel alone, he adds, would require continuously high concentrations of HIV. In most infected individuals, the amount of circulating virus declines rapidly after reaching peak levels soon
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Contact: John Bowersox
jbowersox@nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
26-May-1998


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