Scientists have long believed the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) could hide in surprising and hard-to-reach areas. New research shows HIV can hide in the bone marrow, avoiding drugs and complicating treatment.
Dr. Kathleen Collins of the University of Michigan and her colleagues report in this week's edition of the journal Nature Medicine that the HIV virus can infect long-lived bone marrow cells that eventually convert into blood cells. The virus is dormant in the bone marrow cells, she said, but when those progenitor cells develop into blood cells, it can be reactivated and cause renewed infection. The virus kills the new blood cells and then moves on to infect other cells, said. "If we're ever going to be able to find a way to get rid of the cells, the first step is to understand" where a latent infection can continue."
Scientists have also discovered HIV dormant in blood cells called macrophages and in memory T-cells. Finding these sources of infection are key because eliminating them would allow AIDS patients to stop taking expensive anti-retroviral drugs after their infection was over. That's critical in many countries where the treatment is hard to afford and deliver.