Bacteria Therapy: Cure for HIV?



Just a thought…

The article above in Popular Science is very interesting to me because I wonder whether reverse phage therapy or bacteria therapy would work in HIV. In phage therapy, viruses that kill bacteria are used to kill infectious drug resistant bacteria. If we could use bacteria instead to invite infectious viruses and then clear the bacteria post infection, we can in turn clear the viruses.

In case of HIV, initially I had thought that we could possibly engineer a bacteria to express receptors such as CCR5 or CXCR4 that would lure HIV to infect them instead of CD4+ T cells. These bacteria would also express receptors that would facilitate the opsonization process (clearing of pathogens by immune cells).

Engineered Bacteria

Engineered Bacteria

However, there major obstacles in this process. First, the interaction of CD4 with other molecules expressed by our cells can prove to be a major obstacle. Next, the bacteria may generate immune response and may be cleared too soon before it can actually circulate in the body. Third, it may cause immune activation which is not necessarily advantageous to a patient. Fourth, how will these bacteria be administered? Fifth, depending the route of administration, they may not clear HIV from hard to reach areas such as gut and brain. Finally and possibly the most importantly, it will not clear latent infections. One more: there will still be CD4+ cells that will be infected…how are we going to deal with them?

Although these questions persist and not being able to answer any one of these questions may render the whole process uneffective, it is important to think about phages in HIV. Despite the fact that there are thousands of papers on HIV and hundreds on phages, to my knowledge, there is not a single scientific literature that has investigated the possible role of the phages in HIV infection/pathogenesis. Therefore, despite various challenges, investigating the the beneficial use of phages in HIV could lead us to a novel way of tackling the HIV epidemic.


Filed under HIV, My Life My Thoughts

4 responses to “Bacteria Therapy: Cure for HIV?

  1. What a great post! Thank you for sharing this on your blog.

  2. I am not sure whether this will work though because he altered bacteria may have its own effects in the immune system…but with diligent work one may be able to optimize the bacterial design such that it is more attractive to HIV and generates limited to no immune response.

  3. Michael Moore Jr

    This is a major boost to researchers and doctors treating those with HIV. It may not be the answer but nevertheless provides a path toward the ultimate cure and treatment of HIV!!

  4. This week’s Science News Focus has updates on recent attempts to cure HIV-1 infections. I was surprised to read that gene therapy is in fact being used. However, instead of developing novel bacteria with CD4 and drug resistant markers, people are developing novel CD4 cells that have mutated CCR5 protein which is the HIV-1 receptor.

    Developed by Sangamo BioScience in Richmond, California, the zinc-finger nucleases clip out a specific small sequence of DNA in the CCR5 gene, rendering cells incapable of producing a functioning version of the receptor….
    ….In a best case scenario, the modified cells will copy themselves indefinitely and evolve into the predominant group. If HIV does replicate in [people] after they have received the gene therapy, the virus should selectively infect and kill the normal CCR5+ cells, and the population of CCR5− mutants would steadily rise. A report in the August 2010 issue of Nature Biotechnology showed that just such a selection occurred in mice engineered to contain a humanlike immune system. Led by Paula Cannon of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, the experiment used the same Sangamo zinc fingers to cripple CCR5. The transplanted mice then received injections of HIV, and 12 weeks later, the CCR5− mutants almost completely replaced the CCR5+ cells. “And guess what: The virus goes away,” says Cannon…

    May be instead of engineering bacteria, one could re-engineer immune cells such as CD4 that are natural receptors of HIV-1. One issue here may be that introducing re-engineered CD4 cells may have its own consequences which is an issue with all medicine. Although promising, gene therapy for HIV-1 is still a work in progress. I hope one day it will bring novel methods to cure HIV-1 infection.

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