The Problem with Persistence

Persistence pays, so they say. But in the case of HIV, persistence is the main obstacle to finding a cure, which is why research is currently focused on determining how HIV establishes its hiding spots and how it can be roused and eliminated.


To that end, researchers are now starting to gather in Boston for next week’s Keystone Symposium, Mechanisms of HIV Persistence: Implications for a Cure, which is expected to, as billed, focus on all things cure related, particularly quantifying the HIV reservoir—the pool of latently HIV-infected cells or virus hideouts in the body that allow the virus to come back in full force if effective antiretroviral therapy is interrupted.

Studying and eventually eradicating the shadowy HIV reservoir is the main obstacle to achieving either a sterilizing (complete eradication of all virus) or functional (virus may still remain but is kept in check by the immune system) cure. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Robert Siliciano will set the tone for this discussion with his talk, "HIV Reservoirs: What We Know and What We Don’t Know."

The scientific organizers of the symposium are Olivier Lambotte of the University of Paris South, Guido Silvestri of the Emory School of Medicine, and Steven Deeks of the University of California San Francisco. Francoise Barré-Sinoussi of the Institut Pasteur is expected to deliver a keynote.

Deeks's group will present work on using a host response to HIV as a way to quantify how much virus persists, rather than measuring the virus itself. This would be an indirect way of determining the size of the reservoir, which is proving an elusive but vital task.

Mechanisms of Persistence will run through next Friday, May 1st.

Occasional updates will appear here and a more detailed review will run soon in IAVI Report. – Michael Dumiak