Patients with HIV, thanks to antiretroviral therapy, can live longer and healthier lives, which prevents the virus from replicating and infecting additional cells. However, the ability of HIV to remain in the body despite receiving treatment remains a major obstacle to curing patients. Even after nearly a decade later with strict treatment for HIV, cells harboring the virus can be found in the cerebrospinal fluid.
These data, taken from a trial conducted at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Pittsburgh, Yale University and the University of North Carolina, were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The study also showed that participants who harbored remains HIV in their cerebrospinal fluid had a greater likelihood of cognitive deficits than their peers who did not harbor HIV in the cells of their spinal fluid.
These results demonstrate that HIV can be detected in the central nervous system of patients undergoing long-term combined antiretroviral therapy, and its presence is related to poor performance on cognitive tests.
With funding from the Clinical Trials Group on AIDS of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the research team examined the cerebrospinal fluid of 69 people, all of whom had been on anti-HIV therapy for an average of nine years. . Very sensitive methods for detecting HIV revealed that almost half of the participants harbored viral DNA in the cells that were in the cerebrospinal fluid. Of which, 30% met the criteria for cognitive impairment, compared to 11% of those who did not have HIV cells in their cerebrospinal fluid. Although it is known that treatment can not completely prevent the neurological dysfunction associated with HIV, Dr. Serena Spudich of Yale University School of Medicine and other experts in the field have been the first to detect the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) virus in long-term patients. His discovery indicates that HIV can persist in the brain and spinal cord despite years of successful viral suppression.
Importantly, Spudich and his colleagues linked the presence of HIV in the CSF to poorer performance in a series of cognitive tests, concluding that the brain and spinal cord remain vulnerable to the virus even when the immune system is safe.