Scientists develop new way of identifying HIV in the brain
Scientists at University College London (UCL) have developed a way to use MRI scans to help identify when Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is persisting in the brain despite effective drug treatment.
The study, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases and funded by Wellcome, shows that patients can have HIV in the brain even when the disease is kept under control by treatment.
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body’s natural defense system. Without a strong immune system, the body has trouble fighting off disease. White blood cells are an important part of the immune system.
A senior author at UCL Infection and Immunity, Prof. Ravi Gupta, stated that they had effective treatments for HIV/ AIDS which often led to dementia and other problems in the brain adding “thankfully this is less common now that we can treat HIV, but up to half of HIV patients still report cognitive problems.”
He said: “We see evidence that HIV has spread to the brain in around 10 to 15 percent of these patients, but in most cases the symptoms are down to other causes. At the moment we have to perform a lumbar puncture to confirm this, which involves inserting a needle into the back to draw out the spinal fluid and test it for HIV. This is quite an invasive procedure that requires patients to stay in hospital for several hours. Our new study shows that MRI scans could help to identify high-risk individuals for further follow-up tests.”