HIV Can Replicate in Intestinal Lining Even After HAART Reduces Viral Load, Study Says
HIV can replicate and suppress the immune system in the intestinal lining, even after blood tests show that highly active antiretroviral therapy is reducing viral loads, according to a study published in the August issue of the Journal of Virology, London's Times reports (Lister, Times, 7/29). Moraima Guadalupe of the University of California-Davis Health System's Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and colleagues took blood and intestinal samples of 10 HIV-positive people before and after three years of treatment with HAART (Reuters, 7/29). Three of the people began HAART within four to six weeks of contracting HIV, and seven began treatment at least one year after becoming HIV-positive, BBC News reports (BBC News, 7/29). According to the study, samples from people who started HAART earlier showed less inflammation and greater revival of the mucosal immune system in the gut than the samples of other study participants (CBC News, 7/28). "We found a substantial delay in the time that it takes to restore the gut mucosal immune system in those with chronic infections," Satya Dandekar, chair of the at the UC Davis Health System microbiology and immunology department and senior author of the study, said, adding, "In these patients the gut is acting as a viral reservoir that keeps us from ridding patients of the virus" (Xinhuanet, 7/29). "If we are able to restore the gut's immune response, the patient will be more likely to clear the virus," Thomas Prindiville, a UC Davis professor and a study co-author, said. The study recommends gut biopsies for patients taking HAART and says that earlier onset of HAART and use of anti-inflammatory drugs could help revive immune function in the "gut-associated lymphoid issue," which accounts for about 70% of a person's immune system, the Times reports (Times, 7/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.