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Toxin Wipes Out Persistent HIV

An antibody-toxin combo kills residual HIV hiding out in the organs of mice.

By | January 10, 2014

WIKIMEDIA, C. GOLDSMITHAlthough anti-retroviral therapy is quite good at tamping down the viral load in the blood of people infected with HIV, the virus can still hang out in tissues. So researchers designed an antibody that seeks out a viral envelope protein expressed by infected cells and tacked on to this infection-homing device a toxin that destroys the cell. They tested the therapy on HIV-infected model mice and published their results in PLOS Pathogens this week (January 9).

“Everywhere we look, the antibody is able to kill those infected cells,” University of North Carolina virologist J. Victor Garcia, a leader on the study, told the Los Angeles Times. In spleen, bone marrow, liver, lung, lymph nodes, and other areas, viral DNA dropped dramatically in mice administered the antibody-poison treatment, compared to animals given only conventional antiretroviral medications. “Our work provides evidence that HIV-infected cells can be tracked down and destroyed throughout the body,” Garcia said in a statement.

John Frater, an HIV researcher from the University of Oxford, told The Conversation: “The conclusions at this stage are that in this mouse model, [antiretroviral therapy] can be potentially improved with the addition of an immunotoxin. How this translates to human treatment is not known. Also, whether this is a route for a cure strategy requires a number of other studies before any conclusions can be reached.”

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