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Wistar Scientists Discover Blood-based Biomarkers to Predict HIV Remission After Stopping Antiretroviral Therapy

June 29, 2021

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is highly effective at controlling HIV infection, keeping the amount of virus in the blood so low as to be undetectable. This condition is called viral suppression.

Yet most people experience viral rebound and disease progression if they stop treatment, so scientists are looking to find a functional cure that allows infection control without ART.

Cure-directed clinical trials designed to test new therapeutic interventions require study participants to discontinue ART to allow researchers to evaluate new strategies. This is called analytical treatment interruption (ATI).

Currently, there are no simple, non-invasive methods available to monitor viral rebound after ATI. Therefore, new biomarkers are urgently needed to improve the safety of treatment interruption by predicting how long a patient can be off ART.

Scientists at The Wistar Institute have studied a rare population of HIV-infected individuals who can naturally restrain infection and sustain viral suppression after stopping ART, known as post-treatment controllers.

“We analyzed one of the largest sets of samples ever studied from post-treatment controllers, who don’t experience viral rebound after ART interruption,” said Mohamed Abdel-Mohsen, Ph.D., assistant professor in The Wistar Institute Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center, who led the study, published in Nature Communications. “This condition is extremely rare and provides very important insights into what a functional HIV cure looks like.”

Analyzing the blood of these individuals, scientists identified promising biomarker signatures that may fast-track future HIV cure trials and treatments.

“These biomarkers also provide us with insights on how post-treatment controllers restrain infection and how we can design novel HIV curative strategies to repeat this promising phenotype in the millions of HIV-infected individuals worldwide.”

For more information on this study, read our press release.