HIV is a master of evading the immune system, using a variety of methods to prevent the body from being able to find and kill it. The vast majority of people living with HIV require daily medication to suppress the virus and therefore prevent the development of AIDS. But, for a small subset of people, this battle between the immune system and the virus looks quite different. Known as “controllers,” these patients have immune systems that can suppress the virus without any need for medication. Whereas most controllers can suppress the virus indefinitely, some eventually lose control over the virus and require medication to achieve viral suppression. In a paper published online on September 7, 2021 in Immunity, Harvard Medical School (HMS) researchers at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard reported that, in these cases, control is lost after a type of immune cell, called a cytotoxic T cell, loses the ability to proliferate and kill HIV-infected cells.
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