HIV Cure: Babies Lack of Memory T-Cells Make Virus Unable to Hide from Antiretroviral Drugs

By @Seju_Juni on

New trial is set to be launched soon to treat more than 400 AIDS-infected babies to determine if infants are easily cured from HIV compared to adults. According to NIAID, the lack of memory T-cells in babies can make the virus vulnerable against drugs due to lack of reservoirs.

Curing More Babies

Transmitting HIV from mother to infant commonly occurs during birth and can be prevented by taking anti-HIV drugs such as AZT and nevirapine to reduce transmission rate by up to 99 per cent. However, the remaining 1 per cent chance is still a big deal due to the lack of required prenatal care for pregnant women.

The National Institutes of Health intends to launch a clinical trial for more than 400 HIV-infected infants to undergo strong antiretroviral drug therapy, inspired by the Mississippi baby who is now age 4 and likely cured from AIDS.

"We can't find any virus in her many months after the therapy has been stopped. That doesn't even happen with adults treated for years," stated by Dr Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, according to NBC.

A key factor known as "the lack of memory T-cells" may unlock the mystery on why babies are likely to be cured from HIV/AIDS after taking ART compared to adults. HIV seems to be using these type of cells to hide during the bombardment of HIV drugs and then comes back after the treatment has been stopped.

Memory T-Cells

According to a new study by Brian Rudd and his research team from Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, published recently in the Journal of Immunology, infants are not weak compared with adults in terms of fighting infections.

Memory T-cells measure the strength of an individual's immune system as they function to "remember" pathogens' signatures to create references in case another attack occurs from the same infection. It allows faster and quicker response with more effectiveness to kill the invaders.

But in infants, the case does not seem to function like in adults. Memory T-cells in babies are more active, faster and quicker than adults with more strength on dealing pathogens. However, babies' memory T-cells are short-lived and cannot make memory pools.

For HIV, lack of memory T-cells prevents the so-called "hiding place" or reservoir to avoid interaction with antiretroviral drugs. The stage of immune system in infants will expose the virus wide and open for the treatment which can completely wipe out the infection.

Dr Fauci said that NIAID-funded study will require 475 newborns and their mothers in the United States, South America, Africa and elsewhere.

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