Biologist's Work on 'Viral Reservoirs' May Have Impact on AIDS/HIV

Published: February 19, 2015

Ed Hayward
Original Article:

A drug used to treat patients with multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease has confirmed how “viral reservoirs” form in patients living with HIV and AIDS and also proven effective in animal trials at blocking the pathways to those reservoirs in the brain and gut, according to new research conducted by Professor of Biology Ken Williams and colleagues from other universities.

The drug, a humanized antibody called natalizumab, is produced by Biogen Idec Inc. under the brand name Tysabri and prescribed to treat patients suffering relapse of multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.

In their experiments, Williams and his fellow researchers found the antibody effectively blocked a molecule that two types of white blood cells use to travel to the brain and the gut, where they collect in viral reserves linked to debilitating illnesses that afflict people living with HIV infection, even if they are symptom-free.

The researchers recently reported in the journal PLOS Pathogens that a three-week course of natalizumab, applied four weeks after infection, reversed lesions on the central nervous system. Furthermore, the drug confirmed for the first time that the traffic of the virus – transported in disease-fighting cells known as monocytes and macrophages – to the brain could be physically blocked, said Williams, a senior author of the report.

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