By Keith Mulvihill
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - For the first time, researchers have discovered that HIV is able to directly infect human kidney cells, and the kidneys may act as a reservoir for the virus.
Previously, the virus was only found to infect immune system cells--known as T-helper cells--and a type of brain cell, according to Dr. Paul E. Klotman of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and colleagues.
Klotman's team found the HIV-infected kidney cells in HIV-positive African Americans who had kidney disease associated with their immune compromised condition. The patients had evidence of HIV activity in the kidneys even when antiretroviral drugs suppressed the virus in the blood to undetectable levels.
``There are many implications associated with this finding, the main one being that we have identified another potential reservoir for the virus to hide from treatment,'' Klotman said.
Current antiretroviral treatments focus on eradicating the virus in the body and if other cells are found to harbor virus, it makes it tougher when searching for a cure, Klotman explained.
The team of researchers took tissue samples of HIV-infected patients with kidney disease and compared them with normal human kidney samples.
``We are not sure at this time just exactly how HIV gets into the kidney cells,'' Klotman told Reuters Health. The researchers also do not know if this occurs in populations other than African Americans with kidney disease. In general, African American are at higher risk of kidney failure than whites, for reasons that are not entirely clear.
SOURCE: Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 2000;11