The challenge of detecting the residual virus after retroviral therapy
The HIV virus is a tricky virus in that it has the ability to hide in immune cells at an undetectable level. This is especially true after retroviral therapy. Retroviral therapy can greatly reduce the viral load levels in the blood. The challenge for researchers is trying fully figure out what amounts to the virus is left in the system after treatment.Research teams from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health have found a more effective, efficient, less expensive and all-around easier way to find out if HIV is still present and hiding out in CD4 cells. The test is known as the “TZA test”
The new TZA test works as follows:
- HIV is a very clever virus wherein it produces a lot of “junk” viruses in order to throw the immune system off where it is actually hiding. Scientists recently discovered that the dormant HIV lying ready to awake at any moment to re-infect the body actually hides in the same cells that are meant to be attacking it as a foreign body. The TZA test works to find the gene that only presents itself when “replication-competent HIV” (HIV that can re-infect the body) is present.
- This test can get results within seven days as opposed to the fourteen days needed for the more expensive and more complex Q-VOA test. It also requires less number of cells and blood from the patient in order to perform the test.
- The test has also been able to reveal that the percentage of the Latent virus left in an almost cured patients blood was actually almost seventy percent higher than what scientist was originally able to detect in the patient.
- An even more encouraging aspect of this test is that it could potentially be used to detect HIV in children as well. This is due to the fact that the test does not require the amounts of blood and cells of previous tests.
- This test takes science that much closer to potentially finding a cure now that they have the tools to find the tricky HIV that lies dormant in a patients CD4 cells.
This is a very crucial step in the quest for the elusive HIV cure and vaccine. With all the tests now available and the medication that can fight back against the virus, it gives us greater hope.