News / Africa

HIV Found Hiding in Bone Marrow

Joe DeCapua

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, apparently can hide in bone marrow.  It’s the latest evidence to show HIV can lie dormant in many parts of the body.

However, the finding could eventually lead to better treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Kathleen Collins, associate professor of medicine at the University of Michigan, and her colleagues, conducted the research.  She says a different approach is needed to target the dormant virus.

“The drugs that are currently available for the treatment of HIV disease are highly effective at reducing the virus levels in the blood.  And they dramatically decrease mortality and reduce it by about 90 percent, which is a really big deal.  It’s really important,” she says.


“The drugs do not cure the disease.  And so people have to remain on drugs for at least the foreseeable future, possibly for their entire lives.  And the reason why the drugs fail is because (the) virus is able to lie dormant in a form that is resistant to the drugs.  And when the drugs are stopped the virus is then able to rebound,” says Collins.

Dr. Kathleen Collins
Dr. Kathleen Collins

The next step is to find out how HIV survives in this dormant state, “so that ultimately we can develop a treatment that will be curative,” she says.

Hiding places

It’s long been known that HIV can hide in many parts of the body, such as the brain.  But hiding in bone marrow is different.

“The virus that is in some of these other reservoirs, like (the) brain, are probably in a form that is more short-lived.  It’s probably a low-level active infection.  The drugs aren’t getting into the brain in high enough levels.  What’s different about the bone marrow is that the virus is in a latent form that isn’t toxic to the cells and the cells are long lived themselves,” she says.

HIV can live for many years within those bone marrow cells.

“(It) will require specific reservoir targeting strategies to eradicate,” she says.

Anti-retrovirals are not to blame for the virus going into hiding.

“No, the drugs don’t increase dormancy.  The drugs, if anything, decrease dormancy.  But they don’t eradicate it (HIV),” she says.

It takes time

While the findings will boost drug development research, it’s not a quick process.

“It can take some time.  People have known about reservoirs in resting T-cells (immune cells) and have been working on drug strategies to try to eradicate those reservoirs.  And that’s been on-going for about 10 years with limited success,” she says.

She says the T-cell research may provide some clues into targeting the HIV in bone marrow.

“It’s a fairly long term process to develop drugs and to test them in the clinic.  Make sure they are safe and then get them on the market for therapy.  This is a fairly long term goal and probably won’t change things for people in the near future,” says Collins.

Gone once and for all?

Asked whether it will ever be possible to eradicate HIV from the body, she says, “I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to do that ultimately.  I am.”

She says great strides have been made in recent years.

“We’ve gone from having HIV be essentially a death sentence….  And now, we’re in a different world.  If people are infected with the virus, there’s a lot of hope.  They can lead a near normal life.  So that’s a huge difference just in the past 10 or 15 years.

You May Like

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Indian PM Calls for Unity Amid Tense Climate Over Beef Attacks

Recent series of beef-related incidents seen as signs of rising intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities More

Why These Are New York City's Most Treasured Spaces

Under threat of jail time and fines, some New York property owners are not allowed to renovate their spaces without prior approval More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs