The AIDS virus can infect hematopoietic progenitor cells ― which give rise to blood cells ― and can lay dormant to cause persistent infection, according to a report in this week's Nature Medicine. The identification of a cellular reservoir of dormant cells infected with HIV has important implications for the development of new strategies that may interfere with persistent infection.
HIV causes a chronic infection characterized by the depletion of certain populations of immune cells and the development of opportunistic infections. Despite the availability of drugs that inhibit the spread of the virus, HIV infection has been difficult to cure because of uncharacterized reservoirs of infected cells that are resistant to therapy. Kathleen Collins and colleagues now show that hematopoietic progenitor cells can be infected by HIV, and the virus can persist in a dormant mode in these cells until specific differentiation factors awaken it from its latent state.