A recent study has revealed that HIV-1 hijacks 25 different proteins in the body in order to cover its replication and hide from the immune system. It is hoped that the results of this study will help in research for better treatment options and diagnostic tools.

When leaving an infected cell, HIV particles encase themselves in proteins to disguise themselves from the immune system. While it’s believed that some of these proteins are selected with a specific purpose, others may simply be random proteins that get caught up in the guise.

Drug companies would like to target HIV particles by using the specific proteins to find them – the problem is that the HIV particles utilize so many different specific proteins that it would be impossible to hunt them all individually. This research hopes to narrow down the number of targets by figuring out which proteins are most vital to the survival of HIV particles.

Researchers hope to examine proteins from the cells that HIV most likes to hide in, such as T-cells and macrophages, in order to discover the proper target proteins. While HIV uses hundreds of proteins to mask its spread, only 25 of these proteins are held in common by the two most frequently infected immune system cell types.

CD44 seems to be one of these key proteins – of the 25 examined it is the only protein that can bind other cells to itself. This allows the virus to latch onto inflamed areas within the body. Macrophages and T-cells (the cells that HIV is most likely to travel through) are both used by the immune system to deal with inflammation. Thus HIV uses the body’s own defense system to infiltrate deeper and spread more rapidly – immune cells carry HIV particles to inflamed areas, and proteins like CD44 disguise the virus and allow it to latch on to the inflamed cells.