New Test Shows Simpler Ways to Quantify Reservoir of Intact Viruses in HIV Patients

hiv patients

With the race for an HIV vaccine still on, researchers are constantly looking for new ways to eradicate the virus. A new test that calculates the quantity and quality of inactive viruses in the genes of HIV patients is the latest step in the eradication campaign. 

A news report revealed that if successful, the test would give researchers a better idea of what drugs work best at curing HIV. The test is the joint project of the University of Washington School of Medicine and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 

The test would give doctors an easier way to gauge how much HIV virus would reside inside a person’s genome. According to Dr. Florian Hladik, a research professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UW, the latent HIV reservoir results from HIV’s integration into the DNA. The latter is specifically in the chromosomes of T lymphocytes and macrophages. 

He added that viral integration into the host cell genome is a unique feature of retroviruses. The two existing tests are carried out by sequencing the viral DNA from HIV patients’ cells or inducing functional viral outgrowth in vitro. They are both expensive and offer no solution to finding a cure. 

Hladik notes that the new test is simpler. The test uses a new type of assay that takes advantage of the multiplexing capacity of droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR). It probes every isolated DNA molecule for the presence of integrated HIV DNA and determines if the viral DNA is intact or defective. 

The researcher said he is excited because one day, doctors would tell HIV patients how long it would take to eradicate the virus from their bodies completely. In the meantime, antiretroviral drugs continue to suppress the virus to undetectable levels.

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