The HIV Retrovirus – how it works and why it’s so challenging
The flow of genetic information in all living organisms goes from DNA to RNA to proteins. But a retrovirus is different. It contains RNA that transforms into DNA, which is why things become problematic.
The way a retrovirus functions is unique – it is the only living organism that runs its replication process backwards. It’s understandable why this rare process invites errors. When converting RNA into DNA, small flaws often occur, leading to frequent genetic variations. That’s why maintaining consistently effective medications is so difficult and why drug resistance develops so quickly. Timely viral load monitoring is vital in keeping drug resistance down, so that treatment failure can be discovered quickly and the new variant of HIV repressed with a different medication before it has the chance to multiply.
Retroviruses are especially dangerous as they permanently disfigure the host cell’s DNA. HIV is also distinctive in that it targets T cells – the cells that run your immune system. This cripples a body’s defenses and leaves it unable to recover from infection.
Reverse transcriptase (RT) is a virus enzyme that is used to transcribe the viral RNA into a DNA copy. All viable retroviruses must have a functional RT. Mutations might change their structure, but the function must be intact. A retrovirus with an inactive RT is a dead virus. Cavidi’s HIV diagnostics focuses on quantifying RT activity to provide a highly accurate picture of what HIV is doing inside a patient’s body.