The major reservoir for HIV infection was identified this week, representing a major breakthrough in HIV/AIDS research, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
The reservoir, or cellular site where HIV can persist and replicate, turns out to be something called T follicular helper cells, otherwise known as Tfh or CD4 T cells. They are found in lymph system tissues in regions called germinal centers.
“This is a major discovery for the HIV field; we have finally identified the cell population predominantly responsible for supporting active HIV replication and production,” said Giuseppe Pantaleo, who worked on the study and is with the Swiss Vaccine Research Institute. “We have also provided evidence that the Tfh cells are likely to be responsible for residual virus replication in patients effectively treated with antiretroviral therapy.”
He continued, “The identification of the major HIV CD4 T cell reservoir will be instrumental in developing therapeutic strategies to selectively target HIV infected Tfh cells. The elimination of HIV infected Tfh cells will represent a critical therapeutic strategy to achieve HIV functional cure, i.e. control of HIV replication in the absence of antiretroviral therapy, and potentially HIV eradication.”