HIV progression by Hybrid spreading model
HIV research continues to shed more light on this aggressive and complicated disease.
Recent findings by HIV specialists and network security experts at the University College London, UK have devised a new model of HIV progression termed as ‘hybrid spreading’. They suggest that spread of HIV is similar to the spread of computer bugs infecting multiple computers.
The new model elaborates that HIV spreads through the body not only via blood circulation and but also directly between cells.
To verify the model, the researchers used the data of 17 London-based patients. The model accurately predicts patients’ progression from HIV to AIDS in a major clinical trial and provides the most appropriate rationalization for HIV progression emphasizing the benefits of early treatment.
HIV infects CD4+ T cells, playing crucial role in immune response. Decline of active T cells with HIV advancement is observed. Ultimately patients’ immune system collapses, a state known as “acquired immune deficiency syndrome” or AIDS.
According to the World Health Organization guidelines, HIV treatment should only commence once the number of circulating T cells fall below a certain level. However, UCL’s model proposes to start the treatment as early as possible to prevent the development of AIDS.
Moreover as the number of circulating HIV cells is always fairly low, spread of HIV through bloodstream alone is not enough to cause AIDS. Thus to efficiently spread the disease, HIV gets a grip to an organ with a high T cell population, like gut, where it uses cell-to-cell transfer mechanism. Thus if HIV has already spread to a T cell rich area, complete blocking of cell-to-cell transfer is absolutely necessary along with stopping its progression through bloodstream. Thus development of new treatment strategies is required.
The inspiration for the HIV progression model came from similarities between HIV and highly destructive computer worms such as ‘Conficker’ worm, infecting military and police computer networks across Europe. ‘Conficker’ worm, like HIV use hybrid-spreading mechanisms, which persist for a very long time with difficulty to eradicate.
The model would help to assess the effectiveness of drugs against different modes of HIV progression in real patients.
The researchers plan to demonstrate this model directly in laboratory animals in near future.
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