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  • New study suggests that antiretroviral therapy (ART) erases antigen-specific memory from previous vaccinations.
  • This reaction, known as immune amnesia, is acknowledged by medical researchers but it needs further attention.


About the Research

New research about ART comes from SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University and Oregon Health & Science University. Furthermore, the findings from the research are available in the Journal of Infectious Disease. Also, this study receives funding from public institutions like the National Institutes of Health.


ART and the Erasing of Antigen-Specific Memory

ART is a standard procedure for the treatment of HIV+ individuals. Currently, approximately two-thirds of positive patients in the USA are on an ART regime. Until now the method of treatment was successful in raising the number of CD4 T cells. However, the issue that came up in this research is not about the success of ART. Rather, the scientist found adverse effects during their study that may change the treatment plan in the future.

Researchers working on this study build on previous work that indicates the existence of HIV immune amnesia. That is, ART helps the body raise the CD4 T cells count but it also erases their existing immune response. That means that any previous immunization an HIV+ person got before the ART will no longer have an effect. In particular, any childhood vaccination the patient had before the ART regime loses its effect.

These findings will help researchers further their understanding of the antigen-specific memory that the T cells carry. Also, it will help doctors address the immune amnesia and lessen the deterioration of the patient’s general immune system.

The research also shows that this method of HIV treatment is not as effective as previously thought. Even though the ART is successful in raising the number of T cells, immune amnesia can have devastating consequences. Because of it, HIV+ patients, often lose their immunity to common diseases. Not only that, but the amnesia also causes their general immune system to lose its previous fight response.

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The findings from this research point to the fact that patients on an ART regime need revaccination. However, the researchers working on this study point out that revaccination was not their main concern. That being said, they suggest further research to be done with the aim to discover how to lessen immune amnesia.