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HIV-Infected Intestinal Immune Cells Never Rebound

Levels remain low despite years of treatment, study finds

FRIDAY, Dec. 8, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Within a few weeks of being infected by HIV, most of a person's memory T-cells vanish and are not likely to return even after years of antiretroviral treatment, a new study finds.

Previous research has shown that HIV infection depletes memory T-cells -- which are mostly found in the intestinal tract -- within days. In contrast, T-cells circulating in the blood typically decline over several years, according to background information in the article.

It's known that T-cells in the blood can return to normal levels when HIV patients take antiviral drugs. But it wasn't clear whether intestinal memory T -cell levels returned to normal.

In this study, researchers at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York City and elsewhere performed intestinal biopsies on HIV patients who had started treatment shortly after they were infected.

Reporting in the journal PLoS Medicine, the researchers found that intestinal T-cell levels remained low in 70 percent of patients even after several years of HIV treatment.

The findings indicate the doctors treating HIV patients need to watch for infections or other gastrointestinal problems that could result from prolonged impairment of intestinal immune function, the researchers said.

The study results also suggest the need to conduct studies on treatments to preserve immune function in people newly infected with HIV.

More information

The U.S. National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention offers advice about living with HIV/AIDS.

SOURCE: Public Library of Science, news release, Dec. 4, 2006
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