A natural compound has been found to significantly reduce the rate of reactivation of immune cells latently infected with HIV, suggesting a new potential route to a functional cure for the virus. Publishing their findings in the journal mBio, researchers studied the effects of a compound known as Cortistatin A on latently infected immune cells drawn from nine HIV-positive individuals treated with antiretrovirals (ARVs).

Cortistatin A was isolated from a marine sponge known as Corticium simplex. It has been shown to inhibit Tat, a viral protein that is instrumental in prompting the virus to replicate.

This study showed that the compound reduced viral reactivation by an average of 92.3 percent.

There is considerable research into a cure strategy known as “kick and kill” or “shock and kill,” in which an agent or combination of agents reactivate latently infected cells, and another therapy primes the immune system to better attack the virus. This new research into Cortistatin A suggests that a different strategy would be to slow or stop the virus’s ability to restart replication in latently infected cells, perhaps leading to long-term control of the virus without the need for the standard daily ARV treatment.

To read the study abstract, click here.

To read a press release on the study, click here.