Study Sheds Light on How HIV Evades the Immune System

HIV targets and disables a pathway involved in blocking viral activity and clearing infection.

Researchers have uncovered a new mechanism by which HIV evades the immune system, showing precisely how the virus avoids elimination, according to a new study published in EBioMedicine.

During viral infection, the immune system produces a powerful molecule, called interferon, which interferes with the replication of viruses and causes the body to make antivirals that help to clear the infection.

Although antiretroviral therapy (ART) successfully suppresses HIV infection, it fails to provide a cure for the virus. Lifelong ART can be costly and lead to issues with adherence, adverse events, and mutational resistance, highlighting the need for new therapeutic strategies to cure HIV.

The researchers aimed to determine whether HIV was somehow blocking the interferon signaling pathway, thus avoiding the immune response that is designed to cure viral infection when being treated with ART.

According to the study, HIV targets and promotes the destruction of the anti-viral interferon signaling pathway.

“Essentially, HIV uses the machinery in our own cells to do this, and the virus is thus able to reduce the production of many important anti-viral molecules,” study author Nigel Stevenson, PhD, assistant profession in immunology at Trinity College Dublin, said in a press release. “Without these anti-viral molecules, our immune system can’t clear viral infections.”

The findings provide new insight on how HIV avoids elimination, which could explain why it is still not a curable disease. Understanding how the virus evades the immune response could lead to further research focused on curing and eliminating the virus, the researchers concluded.

Reference

Gargan S, Ahmed S, Mahony R, et al. HIV-1 promotes the degradation of components of the type 1 IFN JAK/STAT pathway and blocks anti-viral ISG induction. EBioMedicine. 2018. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2018.03.006

Scientists discover how HIV evades the immune system [news release]. Trinity College Dublin’s website. http://www.tcd.ie/news_events/articles/scientists-discover-how-hiv-evades-the-immune-system/8835 Accessed April 18, 2018.