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
FEB 10, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Genetics Affect Response to Cancer Immunotherapy
FEB 10, 2021
Genetics Affect Response to Cancer Immunotherapy
Researchers have found that genetic factors may dictate as much as 20% of the efficacy of checkpoint inhibitors, a kind ...
FEB 25, 2021
Immunology
Asthma Inhalers Slash Risk of COVID Hospitalization by 90 Percent
FEB 25, 2021
Asthma Inhalers Slash Risk of COVID Hospitalization by 90 Percent
For mild cases of COVID, doctors recommend the usual regimen for getting through a cold or flu: Staying hydrated and res ...
FEB 25, 2021
Immunology
Two Immune Guardians of the Brain Discovered
FEB 25, 2021
Two Immune Guardians of the Brain Discovered
Most organ systems are protected by a cavalry of immune cells present in the circulation—but not the brain. Consid ...
MAR 25, 2021
Immunology
The Immune System Impairs Antibiotic Effectiveness
MAR 25, 2021
The Immune System Impairs Antibiotic Effectiveness
Nitric oxide, a molecule produced by the immune system, can negatively impact antibiotics’ effectiveness, says a s ...
APR 22, 2021
Immunology
Healthy, Young People Are Getting Reinfected With COVID
APR 22, 2021
Healthy, Young People Are Getting Reinfected With COVID
If you’re young and healthy and you’ve had COVID, your body will produce protective antibodies that guard yo ...
APR 27, 2021
Immunology
Breakthrough Malaria Vaccine Is a Ray of Hope
APR 27, 2021
Breakthrough Malaria Vaccine Is a Ray of Hope
University of Oxford scientists have developed a vaccine against malaria, which they describe as having “unprecede ...
Loading Comments...