Big step towards cure for lifelong viral infections

From Monash University:

New research has taken us a step closer to finding a cure for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), as well as other infections including the glandular fever virus, which is associated with the development of lymphoma. Some infections, such as HIV, cannot be cured with antiviral therapy because the virus effectively hides from the immune system.

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, have discovered that killer T cells, a specialised type of white blood cells, can find these “hidden” infected cells in tissue and destroy them. This discovery, published today in Nature Immunology, could provide new insights into finding a lifelong cure for chronic infections such as HIV.

Dr Yu said this type of killer T cell was naturally found in the body during infection, but their numbers and killing function needed to be boosted to allow them to eradicate chronic infections.

“We’ve shown for the first time that there are specialised killer T cells that can migrate into a part of the lymphoid tissue and control hidden infection,” Dr Yu said.

Although treatments for HIV with antiretroviral drugs are highly effective, treatment is lifelong and there is no cure. Other infections such as Epstein-Barr virus, the cause of glandular fever, may also hide and persist for many years, but become active when the immune system is compromised.

The researchers discovered that these specialised killer T cells, called follicular cytotoxic T cells, can enter hiding spots inside lymphoid tissue, where viruses can hide on treatment. These hiding spots are called B cell follicles.

Dr Yu’s PhD student Mr Yew Ann Leong, who conducted a large portion of the research, also from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, said that although some infections including …

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