One of the first things HIV does when it first enters the body is mess up the gut. Now, the open access journal PLOS Pathogens reports the first 3D ultra-structural study of the human immunodeficiency virus in a live host.
The human gut has the highest concentration of HIV target immune cells, most of which the virus destroys within days of infection. This happens even before a measurable drop of immune CD4 T cells occurs in the bloodstream.
Studies using high-resolution imaging of HIV-infected tissue have revealed details of the structure of HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS, and have demonstrated how it infects cells and accumulates in different tissue sub-structures.
But until now, these have been confined to infected cultured cells or purified virus.
In this new study, a team led by Pamela Bjorkman, a professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology, has – for the first time – used 3D electron microscopes to show active HIV infection in the gut of mice with humanized immune systems infected with HIV-1.
HIV particles bud from host cells and gather in pools
The study is important because it shows how HIV behaves in infected tissue that closely resembles the gut of human patients.