HIV | Current projects
Investigating the effects of interferon on HIV persistence in HIV infected patients on ART
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has revolutionized the treatment of individuals infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) by dramatically reducing the death rate. However, ART is lifelong, expensive and often has side effects so there is an urgent need to identify strategies to cure HIV infection and avoid lifelong treatment. The major barrier to cure is the persistence of hidden (latent) infection in long lived resting a specific type of immune cell known as CD4+ T-cells. CD4+ T-cells play an important part of the immune system and are found preferentially in lymph nodes and the gastrointestinal tract. In order to eliminate latently infected cells in ART treated individuals, one strategy is to wake-up (activate) the latent virus and thereby induce death of infected cells using the body's own immune system. Interferon alpha (IFN-a) is a natural protein produced by the human body in response to infection. It has some direct antiviral effects and stimulates the immune system to fight foreign organisms. IFN-a is best known as a treatment for viral hepatitis and effectiveness against hepatitis C virus (HCV). The precise role of IFN-a in HIV infection is unclear. It can inhibit the virus in test-tube studies, and recent research in people has shown significant anti-HIV activity.