A recent discovery of a “small window of opportunity” to eliminate HIV from the blood and prevent it from spreading further into the body upon first contact has been found.
This narrow chance to block HIV from being infectious in its first few days can very well be the uncharted course to a vaccine and HIV treatment, scientists say.
How did they deduce this? Professor Dan Barouch, lead author of the study, exposed 44 rhesus monkeys to SIV and conducted analyses of the animals on days zero, one, three, seven and 10.
The SIV virus is the animal equivalent of the human HIV.
This research showed the Professor exactly what happens in the first few days of exposing the blood to the virus and before the virus becomes detectable in the blood.
These findings are an advancement in man’s quest for a cure to HIV as well as the ‘development of a vaccine’, and other ‘strategies to prevent infection’.
Professor Barouch from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and a professor of medicine at Harvard, said: “The events during the first few days after exposure to the virus and prior to the initial detection of virus in the blood are critical in determining the course of infection, but this period is essentially impossible to study in humans. Our study is the most comprehensive evaluation of acute HIV/SIV infection to date”.
The Professor and his team of scientists realized that the animal SIV-virus dispersed quickly in the blood, with viral RNA present. RNA is the SIV’s genetic material.
At least, one tissue outside the reproductive tract in the monkeys analyzed for twenty-four hours after exposure to SIV was present with viral RNA.
A host protein NLRX1 had rising amounts which supplemented the increasing amounts of the SIV’S RNA. This NLRX1 which is increased due to the presence of SIV was responsible for disarming the immune system from fighting against the virus.
Professor Barouch said: “In addition to rapid viral dissemination, the virus triggered a local inflammatory response that appears to suppress antiviral innate and adaptive immunity, thus potentially augmenting its own replication. These data provide important insights into the earliest events of infection. The inflammatory response was seen in tissues infected with the virus soon after exposure”.
A pathway known as the TGF-beta pathway which subdued the immune system from adapting and fighting the SIV virus was also triggered.
The TGF-Beta has been connected to the lower levels of antiviral immune responses which caused the SIV reproduction or replication to increase drastically. .
The scientists found that tissues that contained traces of the virus’s genetic material as early as one day after exposure to SIV showed elevated levels of genes in the TGF-beta pathway.
This findings prove that if the TGF-beta pathway and NLRX1 were controlled, they wouldn’t be able to dominate or disarm the immune system thereby giving it a chance to fight within the short window of initial exposure to SIV or human HIV.
Professor Barouch said: “We believe that these insights into early HIV/SIV infection will be critical for the development of interventions to block infection, such as vaccines, antibodies, microbicides and drugs. The next step in this line of research is to evaluate how various interventions may impact these early events”.
While putting vaccines and a cure into consideration, HIV prevention strategists have been advised to take these factors into consideration.
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