Study Finds AIDS Virus May Be Present in Patients Semen, Even If Not in Blood
Can the AIDS virus still be dangerous even if it cant be detected in the body?
Apparently so, says a study by Jefferson researchers reported December 17 in The New England Journal of Medicine.
The study was led by Roger J. Pomerantz, MD, Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, and Director, Division of Infectious Diseases, Jefferson Medical College (JMC).
The Jefferson research team found that the AIDS virus, HIV, is still present in potentially infectious form in the semen of infected men, even if the virus cannot be detected in their blood. The men studied were being treated with powerful, new antiretroviral therapies.
Our work suggests that even if you dont have detectable virus in your blood and are on highly active retrovirals, you should consider yourself potentially contagious sexually and practice safe sex, says Dr. Pomerantz.
Dr. Pomerantz, who also directs Jeffersons Center for Human Virology, says the studys findings also suggest the HIV virus may not be eradicated by drugs alone.
Some scientists have suggested that if you give enough and proper drugs to a patient, you can eradicate the virus. That still may be possible we dont know enough yet, he says.
Dr. Pomerantz and his colleagues examined seven men, all of whom were taking highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and who had no detectable virus in their blood or seminal fluid for several months.
Using a powerful molecular technique called polymerase chain reaction, he and his co-researchers found HIV provirus a precursor form of HIV in the semen of four of the seven men.
The Jefferson teams results support Federal recommendations regarding safe sex practices by all HIV-infected individuals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that even individuals taking HAART and who have no measurable virus in their blood should continue practicing safe sex and other behaviors aimed at preventing transmission of the virus.
Dr. Pomerantz plans to next look at infected women on HAART who have no detectable virus in their blood and see if they also harbor these infected cells in genital secretions. The researchers also plan to test discordant partners - infected men and their uninfected partners to see if those on HAART who may not be using safe sex can transmit virus to their partners.