Eradicating HIV is one step closer

New research could potentially result in a lifelong cure for chronic infections such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), as well as other infections including the glandular fever virus, which is associated with the development of lymphoma.

Here’s the science: some infections, such as HIV, can’t be cured with antiviral therapy because the virus effectively hides from the immune system in B cell follicles. We all have a type of white blood cells – killer T cells – that can find and destroy infected B cell follicles, but we don’t have enough of them.

Having made this discovery, an international team of scientists, led by Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute researcher Dr Di Yu, and Dr Axel Kallies from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, are now working on ways to boost killer T cells that can destroy the virus completely.

Treatments for HIV with antiretroviral drugs are highly effective, but treatment is lifelong and there is no cure. Other infections such as Epstein-Barr virus, which causes glandular fever, may also hide and persist for years, but become active when the immune system is compromised. The researchers hope to start human trials within the next five years.