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Potential Source of HIV Persistence Confirmed

Science Update

Research with a unique animal model provides new evidence that a class of immune cells not thought to be a primary reservoir for HIV can harbor the virus even following antiretroviral treatment (ART). While earlier work has reported persistence of HIV in these cells—macrophages—investigators in this work developed a mouse model with an immune system generated from human cells but lacking T cells, which are a primary target of and reservoir for HIV. The absence of T cells enabled the team to establish definitively the persistence of HIV in macrophages.

Jenna Honeycutt, Ph.D., and J. Victor Garcia, Ph.D., at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with scientists at several collaborating centers, conducted this work. The persistence of HIV in this type of cell—macrophages—means that treatment to eradicate HIV will have to target these cells in addition to those already demonstrated to have a role in the rebounding of HIV if ART is stopped.

The study is reported in the journal Nature Medicine, online April 17; it was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. NIMH’s Division of AIDS Research supports a broad range of studies on HIV/AIDS, including research aimed at understanding and alleviating the consequences of HIV infection of the central nervous system.


Honeycutt, JB et al. HIV persistence in tissue macrophages of humanized myeloid-only mice during antiretroviral therapy.  Nature Medicine, online 17 April 2017, doi:10.1038/nm.4319.


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