Washington: A team of researchers has demonstrated in a mouse model that an HIV-specific poison can kill cells in which the virus is actively reproducing despite antiretroviral therapy.
According to the researchers from University of North Carolina and NIH, such a targeted poison could complement antiretroviral therapy, which dramatically reduces the replication of HIV in infected cells but does not eliminate them.
The 40 mice in the experiment were bioengineered to have a human immune system. They were infected with HIV for several months and then given a combination of antiretroviral drugs for four weeks.
Half of the animals subsequently received a two-week dose of a genetically designed, HIV-specific poison, or immunotoxin, to complement the antiretrovirals, while the other half continued receiving antiretrovirals alone.
The scientists found that, compared to antiretrovirals alone, the addition of the immunotoxin significantly reduced both the number of HIV- infected cells producing the virus in multiple organs and the level of HIV in the blood.
According to the researchers, these findings, coupled with results from previous studies, suggest that treating certain HIV-infected people with a combination of antiretrovirals and an immuno toxin might help achieve sustained disease remission, in which HIV can be controlled or eliminated without a lifetime of antiretroviral therapy. However, further study is required, the scientists write.
The study is published in journal PLOS.