Sci­en­tists de­velop new way of iden­ti­fy­ing HIV in the brain

Daily Trust - - HEALTH - By Olayemi John-Men­sah

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.”

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