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Antiretroviral drugs reduced HIV levels in this man's blood to minuscule levels, but his lymph node cells (purple) still produced detectable viral RNA (green). PHOTO: STEPHEN WIETGREFE, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA

Researchers claim to find HIV sanctuaries

A new study stirs a longstanding debate and suggests that the way to cure HIV infections may be to make drugs that better reach “sanctuary sites” like the lymph node. Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs routinely knock HIV down so effectively that standard tests can’t detect the virus. But most everyone who stops ARVs soon sees the virus come roaring back because it persists in a latent form inside of human chromosomes. So many researchers believe ARVs are doing all they can do and they focus on ridding the body of the “reservoirs” of latently infected cells, which are long-lived. A paper published online in the 27 January issue of Nature shows that people on ARVs who appear to completely suppress the virus in their blood have new HIV being made in their lymph node cells—which may be refilling the reservoir.


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