Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID, and Tae-Wook Chun, chief of its HIV Immunovirology Section, co-led the study.
It included two adults with HIV who began antiretroviral therapy (ART) soon after being infected with the virus that causes AIDS. They continued treatment for more than six years and successfully suppressed the virus.
They then joined a clinical trial and stopped taking ART under medical supervision. One patient was followed for four years and the other for more than five, with assessments every two to three weeks.
In the first patient, researchers found high levels of HIV-specific immune cells called CD8+ T cells that can kill virus-infected cells.
The second patient had a weaker CD8+ T cell response against HIV, but a very strong neutralizing antibody response until the sudden viral rebound.
This suggests that different mechanisms were at work in each patient, the researchers said in an NIAID news release.
Neutralizing antibodies may have played a significant role in near-complete HIV suppression until the second patient was infected with a different strain of the virus, according to the study.
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SOURCE: U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, news release, Oct. 28, 2021