Microbes in the News Assignment: Post #2

Article and link: “New HIV reservoir discovered: Findings reveal a second target for cure research’, Science Daily (it should be noted that the article on Science Daily sites the University of North Carolina Health Care as their source and mentions that the original findings were published in Nature Medicine on this same date), April 17, 2017.




Summary: This article describes scientists’ recent discovery that there is another cell within the human body which can act as a reservoir for HIV in addition to T cells: the macrophage. This discovery that macrophages are susceptible to infection by HIV is very important to current research focusing on the treatment of AIDS: this tells researchers that a successful treatment or cure would have to be effective in ridding the virus from both T cells and macrophages. One investigation found that viral replication within macrophages is effectively repressed when antiretroviral therapy is administered; however, the study also found that this effect is only temporary. Following treatment conclusion, macrophages still act as reservoirs for the virus and therefore remain capable of reinfecting the host. More research must be conducted in order to find the most effective way to resolve HIV infection of macrophage cells.


Connections: This relates to information we have discussed over the course of the semester in that it discusses a virus, HIV, and also cells involved in the immune response (T cells and macrophages). It also relates to the resolution of disease through treatment and also the ways in which viral cells can find ways to persist inside a host even following treatment; both of these are subjects which were briefly touched on in class this semester.


Critical analysis: I found it interesting to learn that HIV can also afflict host macrophage cells in addition to the host’s T cells. It has been known for some time that HIV targets T cells, but I had not heard of any other types of cells being specifically targeted by the virus. I also found it interesting that the antiretroviral therapy typically used in treating HIV infections in T cells does not work effectively on macrophages. I expect that the story is scientifically accurate as I have not seen indications to the contrary. I also did not find anything confusing in the article that would need to be corrected.  I believe that they did a good job in relating this news; it seemed as though they kept their audience in mind, and focused on relating the pertinent details and implications of this discovery without making the article too technical for those who may not have the background to understand a technical explanation.
Question: What are the most significant differences in terms of structure between T cells and macrophages which would cause antiretroviral therapeutic (ART) agents to be effective on T cells but ineffective in macrophages? Which ART’s were tested on the macrophages? What is their mechanism of action? Are scientists already aware of the specific reason that the ART does not work on macrophages?

Discovery of an HIV reservoir marker: New avenue toward eliminating the virus

Date: March 15, 2017

Source: CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange)

Summary:  A protein marker has been discovered that allows cells carrying dormant HIV viruses to be distinguished from healthy cells. This will allow the isolation, and hopefully the destruction of such HIV reservoir cells in order to make remission possible.

Link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170315144033.htm

Connection: We have recently been discussing the reproductive cycles of viruses and how some varieties have the ability to go dormant for periods of time and remain undetected by the host.The dormant viruses inside of reservoir cells may reemerge at any given time.In the case of HIV, the ability of the virus to do so is the reason why patients must receive treatments for the rest of their lives in order to suppress the virus.

Analysis: This article is relatively short, but informative. The writing is easy to follow in layperson terms, but still conveys the discovery effectively. The journal is cited at the bottom of the page, so if one wanted to read the entire discovery in scientific terms, they would be able to. It appears to be scientifically sound, and considering it was published in Nature, that is another mark of its credibility. The fact that something like this has been discovered poses great possibilities in eventually curing HIV, and it was exciting to see this when I was looking up articles.

However, they did have a very small study group, and I hope to see this expanded upon in future studies. Only 12 HIV-positive individuals were checked for the marking protein, and while it was found in all the individuals, I think that for good  science it should have more verified successes before considering it a solidly proven fact.

Question: How long has this research been in progress? It states that the idea of identifying reservoir proteins has been around since 1996, so has this research been in progress for the last 21 years?