It wasn’t very long ago that the idea of an HIV cure was scoffed at. The concept of a curative method for dealing with chronic viral infections, as opposed to preventative (such as vaccines) or treatment (such as antivirals), has a history of controversy among the field.
Our immune system can naturally clear certain viruses, such as influenza, resulting in an infection ‘running its course’ without the need for a cure. Others set up shop so that once the host is infected, they are infected for life. These pernicious chronic infections undergo stages of viral latency, which are typically asymptomatic, and replication, which cause clinical disease ranging from acute illness to cancer. Examples of these viruses include HSV, human papilloma virus (HPV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HIV.
VIDD Associate Member Dr. Keith Jerome, who is also professor and head of the Virology Division, and director of the Molecular Virology Laboratory in the Department of Lab Medicine at the UW, studies novel ways to treat these viruses.
“What we are trying to do here in VIDD is build a program with emphasis on curative approaches for these [chronic] viral infections,” said Jerome. “I think that’s an evolving effort but it’s clearly an area of growth for the division.”