“Rather than destroying HIV, a proposed treatment would embrace its infectious abilities, sending the virus into competition with a harmless, stripped-down version of itself. Dubbed therapeutic interfering particles, or TIPs, these engineered viral scraps would ride with HIV as it spreads from person to person. By out-competing HIV for cellular resources, the TIPs might slow its progression and lower infection rates. “A virus can’t replicate without a host, and similarly TIPs can’t replicate without HIV. It would piggyback on the virus,” said biophysicist and virologist Leor Weinberger of the University of California, San Diego, who modeled the epidemiology of TIPs in a study March 17 in PLoS Computational Biology. “It’s basically a virus of a virus.” Approximately 33 million people now carry HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, which infects immune system cells that defend against disease. The virus gradually destroys them, taking away the body’s ability to protect itself. Without treatment, HIV infection leads to AIDS in about 10 years. Death follows soon after as common diseases overcome the body.”
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