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In addition to HIV prevention, one of the biggest topics for HIV research is finding a cure. While antivirals are able to control and suppress the virus, it’s still able to keep its foothold in infected subjects. This podcast talks to one researcher who’s helped scientists understand that persistence.

Listen and learn

  • How HIV infection manifests as productive and latent infections,
  • What his study showed about the lack of viral evolution and means of proliferation, and
  • What stands as one of the more promising potentials for a cure, namely the “shock and kill” approach.

Matt Gartner is a research officer with Subbarao Group, researching common infectious diseases. His PhD work focused on infectious diseases microbiology, most specifically HIV. Like many infectious viruses, after the transmission of HIV, the virus usually undergoes a latent period.

However, the latent period has a couple of mysterious characteristics.  Dr. Gartner studied the ability of HIV to establish a strong latent reservoir, which allows the virus to persist in people even if they’re on antivirals. He explored two questions in his work: how does HIV establish this reservoir and how is this reservoir being maintained even under antiviral retro therapy.

His research found very little signs of virus evolution, suggesting the antiviral drugs are good at blocking replication. But they found a large percentage of sequences in the patient that were identical, which has important implications: this points to a proliferation of immune cells copying the same strain.

Dr. Gartner thinks that a patient’s immune response helps the reservoir expand when it responds and replicates to attack a specific pathogen. As it replicates, it produces clones of the HIV retrovirus. While this means “any particular cure strategy will be very difficult to carry out,” he discusses one that has potential called the “shock and kill” strategy. Listen in for more about this theory and other details on HIV infection mechanisms.

For more about his work, he suggests searching PubMed and ResearchGate.

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