Virus versus virus: novel approach shows promise against HIV in lab study

July 12, 2021

We believe that a cure for HIV is possible,” said Dr. Jonathan Angel. “This strategy shows promise, but more research is needed.”Thanks to the development of effective drugs, HIV has become a chronic, treatable condition for most people. But it still isn’t curable, and that isn’t good enough for Dr. Jonathan Angel and his colleagues. 

In a new Journal of Virology paper, they demonstrate how pitting one virus against another may help to eliminate HIV-infected cells called macrophages that can hide from current drugs and act as an HIV reservoir. The strategy is based on the fact that HIV can persist in macrophages for many years and suppress their antiviral defenses without killing them. But without antiviral defenses, these cells are more susceptible to being killed by other viruses. 

Dr. Angel and his team showed that a virus called MG1 can preferentially kill HIV-infected macrophages, including those obtained from the lungs of people with HIV. This study is particularly important because tissue macrophages are much harder to study than T cells, which are the focus of most HIV research. 

Since MG1 has already been tested in human clinical trials as a cancer-fighting virus, the researchers believe it could more easily be tested in people with HIV in the future. 

“We believe that a cure for HIV is possible,” said Dr. Angel, an infectious disease physician and senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. “This strategy shows promise, but more research is needed.”

Authors: Sandstrom TS, Ranganath N, Burke Schinkel SC, Salahuddin S, Meziane O, Côté SC, Costiniuk CT, Jenabian MA, Angel JB.

Funding: Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research, International AIDS Society, Department of Medicine, Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, Canada Research Chairs Program, Fonds de Recherche du Québec-Santé, University of Ottawa. All research at The Ottawa Hospital is also enabled by generous donors to The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

The Ottawa Hospital is a leading academic health, research and learning hospital proudly affiliated with the University of Ottawa. 

Media Contact 
Jenn Ganton