HIV’s ‘invisibility cloak’ uncovered


Scientists said Wednesday they have found an “invisibility cloak” that allows the AIDS virus to lurk unnoticed in human cells after infection and replicate without triggering the immune system. And they managed to “uncloak” the virus with an experimental drug in lab-grown cells — a feat that may lead to new and better HIV treatments, the team wrote in the journal Nature.

Human immunodeficiency viruses infect white blood cells of the immune system and replicate undetected for a while before a cellular “alarm system” activates an anti-viral response and alerts surrounding cells — a trait that scientists have battled to understand.

Lead author Greg Towers of the University College London and a team identified two molecules inside human cells that are “recruited” by HIV after infection to help shield it and delay an immune response.

They then administered an experimental drug based on Cyclosporine, which is widely used to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients because it dampens the immune system. The drug prevented the virus from using the molecules as a cloak, they found.