What makes so special to HIV is its capacity to attack the generals of the immunological system: the Lymphocytes T CD4+. These cells coordinate the immune response, sending orders and messages to the soldiers in form of cytokines and chemokines . Without “generals”, the army is condemned to defeat. HIV also has “Achilles heel”… For example, antiretroviral compounds can inhibit the viral functions required for its multiplication in the infected cell, keeping the levels of virus low and allowing the immune system to work. However, its very challenging to eliminate this virus, because it constantly changes its “face” (glycoproteins) to hide from the immune system. HIV mutates very rapidly (1 mutantion each 10,000 nucleotides) allowing fast adaptation against environmental pressures, such as antivirals. In addition, HIV can hide inside the cell in a latent form, which can be activated again when the proper stimulus arrives. We are still far to understand the mechanisms underlying the transitions between the active state and the latency… This could be the key for the elimination of HIV.
Here you will see the images about HIV and infected cells released in Cell-Press: http://www.cell.com/pictureshow/hiv
HIV virion HIV maturation
HIV leaving the infected cell Infected dendritic cell and lymphocytes