A recent study has identified that HIV spreads throughout the body in a similar way to some computer worms. The new finding suggests that early treatment may be the key to treat AIDS.
According to HIV specialists and network security experts at University College London, the spread of HIV through the body using two methods, bloodstream and directly between cells, was similar to how some computer worms spread through both the internet and local networks respectively, to infect many computers. In order to notice the accurate progression from HIV to AIDS in patients, they created a new model for HIV progression.
Detailed sample data from 17 HIV patients from London was used to verify the model, and showed that hybrid spreading provided the best explanation for HIV progression and highlighted the benefits of early treatment.
HIV infected CD4+ T-cells, which played a vital role in the immune system and protected people from diseases. With its progression, HIV reduced the number of active T-cells in the body, until the immune system could not function correctly, a state known as 'acquired immune deficiency syndrome' or AIDS.
However, the new model predicted that treatment should start as soon as possible after infection to prevent AIDS from developing in the long term.
Professor Benny Chain, co-senior author at UCL Infection and Immunity explained that the number of HIV cells in the bloodstream was always relatively low, and their model showed that HIV spreading through the bloodstream alone was not enough to cause AIDS. He added that if HIV had already spread to an area rich in T-cells by the time treatment begins, preventing its spread through the bloodstream would not stop AIDS. The model suggested that completely blocking cell-to-cell transfer would prevent progression to AIDS, highlighting the need to develop new treatments.