News / Health

Drug Combination Controls HIV in Mice by Targeting Hidden Virus

Jessica Berman

Antiretroviral therapies work well to keep HIV infection at bay. As soon as the drugs are discontinued, though, the AIDS virus comes roaring back in a matter of weeks. Now, researchers have developed a treatment that attacks hidden HIV so there is no rebound when antiviral drugs are stopped.

Using mice that were genetically bred to become infected with the AIDS virus, researchers have managed to access and unmask latent reservoirs of HIV and destroy them. In more than half of the rodents, the infection did not recur after antiretroviral therapy was stopped.

Because antiretroviral drugs and the human immune system can’t reach these hidden pockets of infected cells, taking anti-AIDS drugs is a lifelong commitment. If patients discontinue the HIV therapy for one reason or another, the virus rebounds within about two months after the drugs to suppress it are stopped.

The experimental treatment regimen -- developed by researchers at Rockefeller University in New York -- takes a two-pronged approach. It combines so-called broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV with existing anti-cancer drugs that researchers use as viral “inducers,” to stimulate and unmask the latent infection.

Eliminating infection

The antibodies -- produced by only a very small subset of people infected with HIV -- recognize and destroy a broad range of microbial invaders. By themselves, however, they are not enough to vanquish the infection.  

But they can kill the infection when combined with three viral inducers. Rockefeller's Ari Halper-Stromberg helped develop the strategy, which they call “shock and kill.”

“I think it’s just a layman’s term or a way of clearly explaining the idea, which is to shock the virus -- to wake it up from its latent state -- and then obviously you need to kill it in order to have an effect because it is risky. If you just shock it and you don’t kill then it you could have a lot of problems,” he said.

Halper-Stromberg said a number of labs have tried unsuccessfully to use viral inducers and antiretroviral drugs to attack HIV reservoirs, but his lab is the first to succeed by using broadly neutralizing antibodies.

Researchers isolated these antibodies from the subset of infected individuals who produced them, and they also engineered the special immune fighter cells in the lab.

Remaining obstacles

Scientists say there are many obstacles to making the therapy available to people infected with HIV, including the cost of the scarce and extremely expensive antibodies. At this point, that would put the treatment out of reach for most individuals.

“I think that would have to be worked out on another level, and maybe with scale it becomes a little more accessible," said Halper-Stromberg. "But a major benefit for patients is that potentially you could take the therapy much less frequently.”

So rather than every day, patients would need a treatment every month or two.

Researchers are poised to begin human trials, adding viral inducers to the regimen of patients who currently take infusions of the antibodies to manage their infection.

An article describing “shock and kill” therapy for HIV is published in the journal Cell.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid