by George Aitch
A further obstacle in the search for a cure for HIV/AIDS has been overcome this week with the announcement of a new viral detection test. A new study published in Nature outlines this new ‘TZA test’, designed to indicate tiny amounts of HIV in patients’ blood. This will give doctors vital information about the effects of treatments currently used to treat HIV.
HIV and Antiretrovirals
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been the answer to the spread of HIV. HIV is a virus which reproduces itself by targeting cells and hijacking them to produce copies of itself. It does this by injecting its genetic material into the cell of the host (person infected with the virus). That information is then read as though it belongs to the host. Because of this, proteins are made by the cell and creates a copy of the virus. This allows the virus to spread. ART blocks this in a number of ways and has been wonderfully successful in reducing the amount of virus in people who have been infected.
In fact, ART has been so successful that the next barrier to treatment is getting rid of this low level reservoir of virus following antiretroviral treatment. These levels of HIV have been virtually undetectable, until now.
Current detection methods are not able to test positively for tiny amounts of a virus – they just aren’t sensitive enough. The new TZA test, reported in the study’s findings, is sensitive, cheap, fast and requires less blood than previous tests; it ticks all the boxes and is everything that the current test (Q-VOA – quantitative viral outgrowth assay) is not.
This is an important and optimistic step in the fight against AIDS. The tests we use are not currently sensitive enough to reliably say if we have completely eliminated HIV from someone who was previously infected. Now that the TZA assay has been developed, in the future if drugs are developed which are capable of totally wiping out the virus then we will have a method of accurately testing this. And we aren’t far off. A complete cure for AIDS is one step closer now that we have that novel method in place. Once we are able to eradicate HIV, we now can measure that we have done so.
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Any opinions above are the author’s alone and may not represent those of his/her affiliations. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing. All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of the sample surveyed. An online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice. Article proofed and edited for publication by Dr. L Condon.
Sources and Further Reading
Sanyal A, Mailliard RB, Rinaldo CR, Ratner D, Ding M, Chen Y, Zerbato JM, Giacobbi NS, Venkatachari NJ, Patterson BK, Chargin A, Sluis-Cremer N, Gupta P. Novel assay reveals a large, inducible, replication-competent HIV-1 reservoir in resting CD4+ T cells. Nature Medicine. 2017. 23 (5). From advance online publication (29/05/2017).
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