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
  • 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
AUG 10, 2020
Microbiology
The Tuberculosis Pathogen Is Captured Infecting a Cell
AUG 10, 2020
The Tuberculosis Pathogen Is Captured Infecting a Cell
Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium, and it can infect immune cells called macrophages in the lungs that would normall ...
SEP 16, 2020
Immunology
Depression, but Not Anxiety, Causes Inflammation and Metabolic Imbalances
SEP 16, 2020
Depression, but Not Anxiety, Causes Inflammation and Metabolic Imbalances
Scientists have discovered that depressed individuals show higher levels of inflammation as well as elevated fat concent ...
SEP 28, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Why Some Young, Healthy People Get Severe COVID-19
SEP 28, 2020
Why Some Young, Healthy People Get Severe COVID-19
Since the start of the pandemic, scientists have been trying to find out why some people get such severe illness from SA ...
OCT 20, 2020
Immunology
The Immune Pause Button Slowing MS Progression
OCT 20, 2020
The Immune Pause Button Slowing MS Progression
  Scientists have a new theory about the genetics behind the progressive, debilitating effects of multiple sclerosi ...
NOV 04, 2020
Coronavirus
Damaging Antibodies Can Lead to Blood Clots in COVID-19 Patients
NOV 04, 2020
Damaging Antibodies Can Lead to Blood Clots in COVID-19 Patients
COVID-19, the illness caused by the pandemic virus SARS-CoV-2, is known to cause blood clots all over the body in some p ...
NOV 19, 2020
Immunology
Parasitic Worms Help Unravel the Immune Mechanisms Underlying Chronic Disease
NOV 19, 2020
Parasitic Worms Help Unravel the Immune Mechanisms Underlying Chronic Disease
Parasitic worms known as helminths have a complicated relationship with the immune systems of the hosts they invade. Ter ...
Loading Comments...