Anti-retroviral drugs have made a huge difference for people infected with HIV. Over recent decades they’ve turned HIV from a death sentence, when infection turns into full-blown AIDS, to a long-term chronic illness. And many people who are treated promptly will go on to live a normal lifespan. But although these drugs are good at keeping HIV under control, they don’t get rid of it completely so they’re not a true ‘cure’. Low levels of the virus hide in the body, causing chronic inflammation and related health problems. A new study shows that HIV-infected immune cells (the brown blob in this image) can lie low in a carrier’s body fat (the purple and white tissue), acting as a long-term viral reservoir. More fat probably means more viruses, so this raises an intriguing possibility to be researched: could helping infected people shed fat play a part in controlling their HIV levels?
Written by Kat Arney
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