Virus detectives test whole-body scans in search of HIV’s hiding places

To prevent the virus from rebounding after drug therapy, researchers must first map where it lurks in the body.

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Antiretroviral drugs have transformed HIV infection from a death sentence to a chronic condition for many people who carry the virus. But because HIV never truly leaves the body, the virus rebounds rapidly if patients stop taking the drugs for even a short time.

Now scientists are trying to figure out how, and where, HIV hides when blood tests show that a person’s viral load is low or undetectable. The location of this reservoir has long been a mystery, but that could soon change. Powerful new techniques are giving researchers an unprecedented look at how HIV travels though the bodies of people and animals — turning up clues to the virus’s hiding places and new targets for future therapies.

By Sara Reardon


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