Sexual Health news - HIV

Researchers discover key to improving HIV antiviral therapy

HIV, which is most often acquired through sexual activity and intravenous drug use, is notably incurable, but can be managed through physician-prescribed drug regimens and lifestyle choices. Researchers from the University of Washington (UW) report that they now have a better understanding of why the human body is not able to sufficiently fight the infection.

According to a study published in the Journal of Virology, when HIV infects the body it creates vpu proteins, which bind to the protein IRF3 and prevent it from triggering an immune response. This therefore decreases the ability of the body's immune system to fight the virus.

This information gives scientists another insight needed to develop new antiviral medications for HIV, which would focus on preventing vpu from binding to IRF3.

"By understanding exactly what HIV does to hamper the innate immune response during early infection, we can develop a clearer picture of how the virus is able to evade immunity to establish a long-term infection," said Brian Doehle, M.D., the lead author of the article.

Currently, over 56,000 individuals in the U.S. have HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are drugs now available on the market for patients who are diagnosed with the disease, but many have proven to lose their effectiveness over time due to the virus' ability to adapt and continue to infect cells throughout the body.

Insight into the way vpu and IRF3 interact can help researchers such as Arjun Rustagi, an M.D., Ph.D student at UW, measure protein levels in blood cells and determine how IRF3 operates as the HIV infection progresses.