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
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.