A recent study on HIV showed that HIV spread through the brain cells of a host. This HIV latest update was given by Rush University Medical Center researchers who were funded by the National Institutes of Health. Based on their findings, they discovered that astrocytes infected with HIV can spread not just in the brain, but throughout the body too. This was due to leukocyte traffic happening inside the body.
Effects of HIV
Ever since HIV was discovered, it remained a public health concern until today. Scientists are still scrambling to find a cure for this ongoing disease but to no avail. So far, scientists know that the HIV virus attacks white blood cells to prevent them from repelling the said infection. If a host does not receive appropriate treatment, their immune system will be further compromised which can lead them to have AIDS.
So far, the antiretroviral therapy given to HIV patients has helped prolong their lives, making it one of the few successes with regards to treating this infection. However, there is a concern that those who are receiving the said treatment are developing neurological issues, such as becoming forgetful. Data revealed that it takes up to 8 days before the viral infection reaches the brain. The only thing that previous researchers did not have was data that showed that the virus doesn’t travel anymore once they reached the brain.
Researchers’ HIV Latest Update
Dr. Jeymohan Joseph, Ph.D., one of those who funded the study, stated that their research showed that the HIV cells gathered in the brain. He further noted that these infected cells were able to leave the brain and head to different areas of the body where they attach to organs causing them to be infected too. From this new information, Dr. Joseph surmised that for them to be able to get rid of this infectious disease completely, they need to understand what the role of the nervous system is when it comes to making the infected cells spread further.
Astrocytes in the brain help with handling different brain functions such as for communication and keeping the barrier between the brain as well as the blood in good condition. However, since there is an infection on going, researchers were able to transfer the infected astrocytes into immune-compromised mice. The main goal here was to determine if the infected cells could spread through brain cells and whether they can leave to go and infect other organs in the body.
From what they have gathered, their study was a success as they were able to see that the infected cells did spread into the brains of their test subjects. Not only that, but they also migrated from the brain to the rest of the body where re-infection took place. However, when antiretroviral therapy was introduced, it appeared that less migration occurred. But when the treatment was interrupted, the scientists detected the virus had latched on to other organs. This was a good indication that re-infection occurred in mice.
What the Data Reveals
Dr. Al-Harthi, and her researchers, stated that what their study proved was that the HIV cells didn’t stop in the brain, but that they were able to move around too. She further stated that their findings also involved discovering how the infected astrocytes played a part in the reproduction and replication of the infectious disease even when the test subjects are receiving the mandated treatment.
This information may be a good addition to existing data on HIV which can be used to find a possible cure for this decades-long infection. For Dr. Al-Harthi, their study may help other researchers come up with a viable strategy where they can focus on not just treating the existing virus, but also eliminate all known reservoirs in the host’s body.
Growing Concerns in HIV
As a growing public health concern, HIV researchers, such as those from Rush University, are looking into other avenues regarding the said disease. Dr. May Wong, Ph.D., one of the proponents of the study, stated that it was necessary to determine what role the brain was playing with regards to keeping the infected cells in place and finding other virus storages in the body. She added that as more studies are conducted with regards to the brain and HIV, they may be able to find a potential cure for this disease.
However, this latest study is still in its early stages. Also, their findings are still limited to animal test subjects. Still, the HIV latest update has given insight into how the brain works with regards to the viral infection.
No Cure in Sight
Although there is no cure in sight for HIV, scientists have made some remarkable discoveries regarding it to the point that they were able to create a treatment. The antiretroviral therapy that many HIV patients are receiving has been found to be effective in slowing down the spread of the deadly virus. It is important, therefore, that those who suspect that they have been infected should get tested as soon as possible so that appropriate treatment will be given.
With the new findings on HIV and the brain, researchers are given additional data that they can incorporate with the existing information on HIV and perhaps use this to come up with a better treatment. HIV is still prevalent today, with people becoming more aware of this condition compared to before. Even though we are still far from finding the right medication to banish this disease forever, researchers and scientists are doing their best to understand this infection. Hopefully, a cure will be developed in the near future that can aid not just in prolonging an HIV positive’s life but to completely eliminate this disease.
More work needs to be done and researchers are still on the job of getting to know more about HIV, the body’s response to it, and what other underlying conditions and effects are there that need to be treated or discovered. It is a long and arduous process, but with every new information, we may be one step closer to finding a way to banish it forever.