HIV can rapidly form invulnerable strongholds in the body, dashing hopes that early treatment might cure the virus, according to new research. A baby (the so-called “Mississippi baby”) was thought to have been cured by initiating¬†treatment hours after birth, but it was announced a few weeks ago that the virus had re-emerged after several years of apparently being absent from the blood.

New research suggests that untouchable “viral reservoirs” form even before HIV can be detected in the blood.¬†Reservoirs of HIV in the gut and brain tissue are the massive obstacle in the way of a ¬†cure. Remarkable progress in developing antiretroviral drugs means HIV can be kept in check in the bloodstream and patients have a near-normal life expectancy; but if the drugs stop, the virus will emerge from its reservoirs back into the blood.

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