SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 31 -- Even when HIV has all but disappeared from the peripheral blood after the start of therapy, the virus may still be lurking in the gut, slowing the restoration of immune response, according to researchers here.
The gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) -- which accounts for about 70% of the body's immune system -- is an important site for early HIV replication, associated with severe depletion of CD4-positive T-cells, said Satya Dandekar, Ph.D., of the University of California at Davis.
And despite the apparent success of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in suppressing the virus -- as measured in the blood -- some patients may still have active infection in gut-associated lymphoid tissue, Dr. Dandekar and colleagues reported in the August issue of Journal of Virology.
"This is the first longitudinal study to show that while current HIV therapy is quite successful in reducing viral loads and increasing T-cells in peripheral blood, it is not so effective in gut mucosa," Dr. Dandekar said. "We need to be focusing our efforts on improving treatment of gut mucosa, where massive destruction of immune cells is occurring."