Researchers in France have discovered a marker that differentiates "dormant" HIV-infected cells from healthy cells. Dormant HIV reservoir cells cause HIV persistence in patients who have undetectable levels of viral load and are receiving antiviral treatment. The reservoir cells can be latent and elude the immune system for several decades. This breakthrough will now allow researchers to isolate and analyze these reservoir cells, and may be used to develop novel treatment strategies that target infected cells.
The cell marker is CD32a protein, and was found after comparing hundreds of healthy and infected cells. It was then studied in blood samples from 12 patients with HIV and receiving treatment. Cells with CD32a were isolated from the blood samples, and almost all were found to be infected with HIV.
The research was conducted by a collaboration between the CNRS, Montpellier University, Inserm, the Institut Pasteur, the Henri-Mondor AP-HP hospital, the Gui de Chauliac hospital, and the VRI.