Nav: Home

Researchers date 'hibernating' HIV strains, advancing BC's leadership in HIV cure research

September 05, 2018

Researchers at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), in partnership with University of British Columbia (UBC) and Western University, have developed a novel way for dating "hibernating" HIV strains, in an advancement for HIV cure research in the province. Published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the BC-CfE's first major scientific contribution to the area of HIV cure research confirms that dormant HIV strains can persist in the body for decades.

"If you can't identify it, you can't cure it. This research provides further essential clues in the pursuit of an HIV cure--which will ultimately require the complete eradication of dormant or 'latent' HIV strains," said Dr. Zabrina Brumme, Director, Laboratory with BC-CfE and lead author on the study. "Scientists have long known that strains of HIV can remain essentially in hibernation in an individual living with HIV, only to reactivate many years later. Our study confirms that the latent HIV reservoir is genetically diverse and can contain viral strains dating back to transmission."

"The BC-CfE has consistently been a national and global leader on research on HIV and on the implementation of its pioneering Treatment as Prevention® strategy. The addition of molecular biologist Dr. Zabrina Brumme as Director of the innovative BC-CfE Laboratory ensures the BC-CfE will play a significant role in HIV cure research," said Dr. Julio Montaner, Director of the BC-CfE. "Curative strategies will need to address this new study's key findings. I want to acknowledge the study participants and thank them for helping to increase our knowledge on the origins of the latent HIV reservoir."

"By creating family trees of viruses using a technique called molecular phylogenetics, we can reconstruct the evolutionary history of HIV within a person," said Brad Jones, a Ph.D. student with UBC at the BC-CfE and the first author on the study. "In essence, we created a highly calibrated 'time machine' that gives us a specific time stamp for when each dormant HIV strain originally appeared in a person."

Dormant HIV strains, which have integrated their DNA into that of the body's cells, can persist for years and are unreachable by antiretroviral treatments and the immune system. They can reactivate at any time, which is why HIV treatment needs to be maintained for life.

Through advances in antiretroviral therapy, an individual living with HIV can now live a longer, healthier life on treatment. Treatment works by stopping HIV from infecting new cells. On sustained treatment, individuals can achieve a level of virus that is undetectable by standard blood tests. An undetectable viral load means improved health and that the virus is not transmittable to others--the concept behind Treatment as Prevention®.

"Previous research had already revealed that the HIV reservoir was genetically complex. With our method, we can now understand that complexity with greater granularity, pinpointing exactly when each unique HIV strain originally appeared in a person," said Dr. Jeffrey Joy, Research Scientist at the BC-CfE and co-author on the study.

"In order to eradicate HIV from a person's body, you first need to know the characteristics of HIV in the latent reservoir," said Dr. Art Poon, Assistant Professor in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Western University, also a co-author on the study. "We are providing a method for better measuring the timeline of virus latency and evolution within an individual living with HIV."

In order to "date" dormant HIV strains within the viral reservoir, researchers needed to compare these strains to those that evolved within an individual living with HIV over the entire history of their infection. The BC-CfE is one of a handful of institutions worldwide capable of such research, thanks to its maintenance of a historical repository of blood specimens from individuals diagnosed with HIV in BC. These specimens date back to 1996 and were originally collected for viral load and drug resistance testing. The BC-CfE Laboratory has provided HIV drug resistance genotyping for virtually all Canadian provinces and territories since 1998, as well as for many countries worldwide.
-end-
This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in partnership with the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) and the International AIDS Society (IAS) through its support of the Canadian HIV Cure Enterprise (CanCURE), as well as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) through its support of the Martin Delaney BELIEVE Collaboratory.

About the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS

The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) is Canada's largest HIV/AIDS research, treatment and education facility, nationally and internationally recognized as an innovative world leader in combating HIV/AIDS and related diseases. The Treatment as Prevention® (TasP®) strategy, pioneered by BC-CfE, inspired the ambitious global UNAIDS 90-90-90 to end AIDS as a pandemic by 2030. The BC-CfE is applying TasP® to therapeutic areas beyond HIV/AIDS, including viral hepatitis, through Targeted Disease Elimination® (TDE®). The BC-CfE works in close collaboration with key stakeholders, including government, health authorities, health care providers, academics and the community to reduce disease burden and increase health care sustainability.

For more information, please contact:

Caroline Dobuzinskis, BC-CfE Communications Coordinator
Phone: 604-366-6540, Email: cdobuzin@cfenet.ubc.ca

BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS

Related Hiv Articles:

The Lancet HIV: Severe anti-LGBT legislations associated with lower testing and awareness of HIV in African countries
This first systematic review to investigate HIV testing, treatment and viral suppression in men who have sex with men in Africa finds that among the most recent studies (conducted after 2011) only half of men have been tested for HIV in the past 12 months.
The Lancet HIV: Tenfold increase in number of adolescents on HIV treatment in South Africa since 2010, but many still untreated
A new study of more than 700,000 one to 19-year olds being treated for HIV infection suggests a ten-fold increase in the number of adolescents aged 15 to 19 receiving HIV treatment in South Africa, according to results published in The Lancet HIV journal.
Starting HIV treatment in ERs may be key to ending HIV spread worldwide
In a follow-up study conducted in South Africa, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have evidence that hospital emergency departments (EDs) worldwide may be key strategic settings for curbing the spread of HIV infections in hard-to-reach populations if the EDs jump-start treatment and case management as well as diagnosis of the disease.
NIH HIV experts prioritize research to achieve sustained ART-free HIV remission
Achieving sustained remission of HIV without life-long antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a top HIV research priority, according to a new commentary in JAMA by experts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.
First ever living donor HIV-to-HIV kidney transplant
For the first time, a person living with HIV has donated a kidney to a transplant recipient also living with HIV.
The Lancet HIV: PrEP implementation is associated with a rapid decline in new HIV infections
Study from Australia is the first to evaluate a population-level roll-out of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in men who have sex with men.
Researchers date 'hibernating' HIV strains, advancing BC's leadership in HIV cure research
Researchers have developed a novel way for dating 'hibernating' HIV strains, in an advancement for HIV cure research.
HIV RNA expression inhibitors may restore immune function in HIV-infected individuals
Immune activation and inflammation persist in the majority of treated HIV-infected individuals and is associated with excess risk of mortality and morbidity.
HIV vaccine elicits antibodies in animals that neutralize dozens of HIV strains
An experimental vaccine regimen based on the structure of a vulnerable site on HIV elicited antibodies in mice, guinea pigs and monkeys that neutralize dozens of HIV strains from around the world.
State-of-the-art HIV drug could curb HIV transmission, improve survival in India
An HIV treatment regimen already widely used in North America and Europe would likely increase the life expectancy of people living with HIV in India by nearly three years and reduce the number of new HIV infections by 23 percent with minimal impact on the country's HIV/AIDS budget.
More Hiv News and Hiv Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.