Sexual Health news - HIV

Researchers working on a way to uncover HIV's protective mechanisms


As with many viruses, HIV is able to mutate itself once in the body in order to evade the immune system. This is just one reason why the virus remains incurable, but researchers believe they may be relatively close to discovering how to keep HIV from disguising itself.

When it enters the bloodstream, HIV hijacks a part of the immune system called the complement. Part of this system includes a mechanism called CD59 that keeps immune cells from attacking healthy tissue. HIV uses this and a key protein to incorporate itself into CD59, thereby hiding from immune cells that might otherwise attack the virus.

This was the finding of Indiana University School of Medicine's Andy Qigui Yu, Ph.D. Now, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Yu and his team plan to experiment with a compound that they believe may hold the key to disabling HIV's protective mechanism.

"If we find that mechanism, then we can develop something to block that incorporation, and HIV may lose that protection from the immune system," said Yu.

Researchers know from laboratory trials that certain antibodies are able to effectively kill HIV. However, when the virus kicks in its CD59 protection, these immune cells face a futile battle.

Yu said that he and his team plan to test a molecule that may be able to attack HIV-infected cells – as opposed to only targeting the virus in the bloodstream – on a broad array of patient blood samples.

In order to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, individuals should be sure to practice safer sex by using condoms and getting tested each time they have a new partner.