A breakthrough has been made in the treatment of HIV, with researchers discovering why the human body cannot fight off an infection with the virus.
The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Virology and was directed by Dr Michael Gale, a professor at the University of Washington's Immunology Department.
HIV and AIDS is one of the largest concerns among international healthcare specialists, with around 34 million people suffering from the ailment and around 30 million people dying from AIDS-related causes since the epidemic began, according to UNAIDS.
The illness is particularly common in sub-Saharan Africa, with around five per cent of the adult population infected with the disease.
While expatriate medical insurance may be able to provide effective medicines for people with the condition, no cure has been discovered as of yet.
However, scientists have discovered that HIV produces a viral protein called vpu, which reduces the human body's immunity against infection by interfering with immune response compound IRF3.
Earlier investigations at Dr Gale's laboratory had revealed HIV disrupts early immunity by impairing the function of IRF3 in infected persons, but the new studies have unveiled vpu's role in the destruction of the protein.
"By understanding exactly what HIV does to hamper the innate immune response during early infection, we can develop a clearer picture of how the virus is able to evade immunity to establish a long-term infection," lead author of the article and postdoctorate fellow Dr Brian Doehle said.
"The identification of new targets for treatment therapy is essential to providing the most effective treatment for HIV-infected patients," Dr Gale added.
He described the discovery as comparable to the identification of a "new Achilles' heel" of HIV, with the knowledge gained potentially assisting scientists in the production of new antiviral therapeutics.
This is critical to treating people with the HIV infection, the professor declared.