JUN 01, 2017 4:21 PM PDT

A New Test to Measure if HIV Can Be "Cured"

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

When is someone “cured” of HIV? If there is such a state reachable with drug therapies, how can a doctor tell? The problem stems from HIV’s tendency to hide dormant inside of immune cells - CD4+ T cells specifically - that make remaining viruses leftover after antiviral treatment difficult to detect.

 

Dr. Anwesha Sanyal indicates HIV-infected cells collecting at the bottom of a vial being prepared for Pitt Public Health's TZA test. Credit: Tim Betler/UPMC

 

From the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, researchers have published a new study in the journal Nature Medicine describing their new test design for detecting dormant HIV.

 

"Globally there are substantial efforts to cure people of HIV by finding ways to eradicate this latent reservoir of virus that stubbornly persists in patients, despite our best therapies," said senior author Phalguni Gupta, PhD. "But those efforts aren't going to progress if we don't have tests that are sensitive and practical enough to tell doctors if someone is truly cured."

 

The existing test most experts rely on is the “quantitative viral outgrowth assay” or “Q-VOA.” Its shortcomings? Q-VOA requires a large volume of blood, is labor-intensive, time-consuming, and expensive, and the estimate the test provides usually doesn’t tell the whole story.

 

The Pittsburgh researchers instead offer the new “TZA” test to detect dormant HIV, which improves upon virtually all of Q-VOA’s weaknesses. The test works by detecting activity of a unique gene that is only expressed when HIV is currently replicating. TZA produces results in one week - Q-VOA takes two - and is one-third of the cost of Q-VOA. TZA also requires a much smaller amount of blood for testing and is less labor-intensive.

Thanks to the new test, the Pittsburgh researchers discovered that the amount of dormant HIV existing in “nearly cured” people is 70 times as much as experts previously thought.

"Using this test, we demonstrated that asymptomatic patients on antiretroviral therapy carry a much larger HIV reservoir than previous estimates--as much as 70 times what the Q-VOA test was detecting," Gupta explained. "Because these tests have different ways to measure HIV that is capable of replicating, it is likely beneficial to have both available as scientists strive toward a cure."

 

The new TZA test could soon be the most commonly-used test to detect specific numbers of latent HIV in the body. With these measurements made, doctors can alter an HIV patient’s treatment plan to send them on a better, more specialized path to a true “cure.”

 

Source: University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
NOV 07, 2022
Immunology
A High-Fat Diet May Alter Immunity
A High-Fat Diet May Alter Immunity
The physiological impact of various diets has been hotly debated for years. Scientists have now used a mouse model to sh ...
NOV 14, 2022
Cancer
Breast Cancer Vaccine Shows Promise as it Enters Phase 2 Trial
Breast Cancer Vaccine Shows Promise as it Enters Phase 2 Trial
About 20% of breast cancers exhibit elevated levels of a protein known as HER2.  You may have heard the classifier ...
DEC 11, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Novel Dermatitis Treatment Produces Long-Term Results in Clinical Trials
Novel Dermatitis Treatment Produces Long-Term Results in Clinical Trials
A monoclonal antibody drug known as rocatinlimab produced significant results in patients with moderate to severe atopic ...
JAN 09, 2023
Microbiology
Looking for custom media? We are here to help.
Looking for custom media? We are here to help.
Are you looking for custom media manufactured in a FDA compliant facility? Hardy Diagnostics is an employee owned compan ...
JAN 13, 2023
Immunology
B Cell Surface Features Revealed by Advanced Microscopy
B Cell Surface Features Revealed by Advanced Microscopy
With an advanced technique called lattice light sheet microscopy, scientists have revealed structures on the surface of ...
JAN 17, 2023
Microbiology
Viruses Destroy Crucial Immune Cells That Battle Fungal Infections
Viruses Destroy Crucial Immune Cells That Battle Fungal Infections
Fungi that can cause lung infections are all over our environment. Recent research has highlighted how much fungal speci ...
Loading Comments...