HIV infection affected the body’s immunological memory even with antiretroviral therapy

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have found why people with HIV infection, even during antiretroviral therapy, remain at an increased risk of chronic inflammation, which can lead to the development of various diseases.

It turned out that the fault is the viral protein Nef, which changes the “immunological memory” of the cells of the body.

The advent of antiretroviral therapy has enabled patients with HIV infection to live full lives. However, these people still often suffer from chronic inflammation, which puts them at an increased risk of developing comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease or neurocognitive dysfunction.

Scientists from the George Washington University (USA) explained where this inflammation comes from and why therapy or even the complete eradication of HIV from the body will not be able to solve this problem.

HIV’s Nef protein alters the body’s immune cells to overreact to other pathogens. When Nef gets inside named cells, their inflammation-related genes become overexpressed.

This continues even when the protein is no longer in the cell. According to the authors, this “immunological memory” of the original HIV infection is the reason why people with this disease are prone to chronic inflammation.

The new study highlights the fact that long-term suppression or even complete elimination of HIV infection will not save patients from the risk of dangerous comorbidities.

Therefore, physicians must still strive to reduce inflammation, and researchers must continue to search for potential therapeutic targets.

During the experiments, the scientists exposed human immune cell cultures to the Nef protein.

The amount of Nef injected into cells was similar to the concentration found on average in HIV-infected people who are taking antiretroviral drugs and whose HIV load is not detectable.

After some time, the authors injected a bacterial toxin to elicit an immune response from the cells. It turned out that cells exposed to Nef produced much more inflammatory cytokine proteins.

The results of this study may also explain why some other viral infections may increase the risk of chronic inflammation, such as Covid-19.

This pro-inflammatory immunological memory likely evolved as a beneficial immune process to protect the body from new infections.

However, in some cases, it can lead to pathologies. The net effect depends on the duration of this memory, which underlies the long-lived inflammatory conditions that we see with HIV infection or after prolonged Covid-19.

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