SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

Scientists find new features of B cells in HIV-infected patients

Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recently identified previously unknown characteristics of B cells, the immune system cells that make antibodies to HIV.

The researchers discovered that B cells naturally produced in patients infected with and not treated for HIV are more activated, unstable and unresponsive to further stimulation than normal B cells. This could help inform why such patients are not able to clear the infection.

Additionally, the research showed that patients who start antiretroviral therapy see a decrease in the quantity of B-cells responding to HIV. The quality of the response, however, is improved with normal B cells dominating.

Patients who start treatment for HIV earlier have a greater capacity for maintaining pre-treatment levels of B cell response to the virus. Normal B cells result in a lower viral load and a low level of immune activation.

More research is needed to determine whether normal B cells offer a more effective antibody response than abnormal B cells. It is also yet undetermined whether a better B cell response is generated from patients with a low viral load and low immune activation or those with a higher viral load and higher immune activation. B cells also respond differently to HIV compared to other pathogens in the same patients.

The research indicates that starting HIV treatment early offers benefits to the patient's health.