LOS ANGELES– Myeloid cells, a subset of white blood cells, can harbor HIV in people who have been virally suppressed for years on antiretroviral therapy, according to a new study published on Monday.

The findings, published in Nature Microbiology, suggest that myeloid cells contribute to a long-lived HIV reservoir, making these cells an important but overlooked target in efforts to eradicate HIV.

“Our findings challenge the prevailing narrative that monocytes are too short-lived to be important in cure efforts,” said study author Rebecca Veenhuis, an assistant professor of molecular and comparative pathobiology and of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore. 

“The cells are short-lived, but our follow-up data show that HIV can persist in monocytes over several years in people who are virally suppressed.

The fact that we can detect HIV in these cells over such a long period suggests something is keeping the myeloid reservoir going,” Veenhuis said.

Antiretroviral medications are effective in treating HIV because they prevent the virus from infecting new cells and multiplying.

However, HIV may still exist in cells that are in a resting, or latent, state, creating an HIV reservoir, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

Identifying HIV reservoirs is critical to cure efforts, as latent HIV can be reactivated if people stop taking antiretroviral medications, said the NIH.  – Xinhua