A cure for HIV could be in the pipeline, scientists claim.Experiments have today revealed exactly how the killer virus hides away, preventing antiviral drugs from flushing it out.Researchers haven long been baffled as to why some infected cells can go dormant and evade detection for years.But the new findings, made by University of California, San Francisco researchers, finally offer the medical community an answer.They discovered the cells can spontaneously become 'latent' - or dormant - by refusing to make the virus like a normally infected cell.The experts behind the trial, derived from 18 HIV patients, claim they can 'now start developing drugs' to allow the body to kill the dormant cells.There are currently no treatments that exist that can kill latent cells or stop them from reactivating in the future.Typically, the virus infects CD4 T cells, a type of immune cell, and uses the cell's DNA to produce viral RNA - which transports genetic messages for making proteins.These new virus bodies then leave the cell to infect more.However, the latency phase, in which an HIV-infected cell stops making the virus for a long period of time, has remained a mystery.Because they are not reproducing the virus, they are difficult to target using current treatments. And they can be deadly when they become active.'We can't even separate out uninfected from infected cells, let alone latently infected cells,' said Dr Steven Yukl, from the University of California, San Francisco.'Latently-infected cells are extremely rare - one in one million CD4 T cells - and we don't know how to identify them.'Why they sometimes become active again is poorly understood. There are currently no treatments that can kill latent cells or stop them from reactivating.WHAT IS AN 'UNDETECTABLE VIRAL LOAD' OF HIV? A person with HIV becomes 'undetectable' when treatment suppresses the virus to a level so low in their blood that it cannot be detected by measurements. If a person is undetectable and stays on treatment, they cannot pass HIV on to a partner. No study has ever shown HIV transmission from someone with an undetectable viral load. To date, an undetectable load is almost always achieved with daily doses of antiretroviral drugs. But a number of clinical trials - including PRO-140 by CytoDyn, which Charlie Sheen is involved in - hope to be developing treatments that could be administered on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Roughly 30 percent of America's 1.2 million people with HIV have reached an undetectable viral load which underscores the need for expanded access to testing, treatment, and care. For more information and resources, visit the Prevention Access Campaign website.To try and understand how they work better, the San Francisco team performed a series of tests on the latent HIV-infected cells.They discovered bits and pieces of viral RNA, showing the virus was attempting to reproduce unsuccessfully.'It's not that the cells aren't making viral RNA, but that the RNA isn't fin
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