Researchers, led by Dr. Constantinos Petrovas of the Immunology Laboratory of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), have developed an antibody that enhances the power of the immunity system and can kill hidden cells infected by the HIV virus.
The research results have been published in the American medical journal “Science Translational Medicine”.
Petrovas spoke to Athens News Agency explaining that “the HIV virus infects immune system cells (CD4 T) in specific regions of the lymph nodes, which can cause latent infection outbreaks. Our work shows that chronic infection with HIV, even in people receiving anti-retroviral therapy, cells of the immune system armed with the ability to kill cells infected with HIV, i.e. cells killer (CD8 T), have increased presence in these regions.”
“Our findings,” he added, “show that appropriate intervention in the immunity system could trigger and orient these killer cells against HIV-infected cells, thus contributing to the efforts for effective elimination of the virus.”
The next step is to thoroughly study the effect of the antibody at various stages of HIV infection. The researchers hope to develop a new therapeutic strategy type “shock-and-kill” which will be used in patients undergoing combined antiretroviral therapy for a long time.
Dr. Petrovas graduated from the Medical School of Athens, from where he received his doctorate on immunology and HIV. Then he conducted postdoctoral research at the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Boston and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Drexel University. For 15 years he has conducted research on the pathogenesis of HIV and its family member SIV. Since 2005 he has been a researcher at NIAID.