The design of 'hunter' viruses aimed at destroying human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infected cells is an active area of research that has produced promising results in vitro. Hunters are designed to target exposed viral envelope proteins in the membranes of infected cells, but there is evidence that the hunter may also target envelope proteins of free HIV, inducing virus-virus fusion. In order to predict the effects of this fusion on therapy outcomes and determine whether fusion ability is advantageous for hunter virus design, we have constructed a model to account for the possibility of hunter-HIV fusion. The study was based on a target cell-limited model of HIV infection and it examined the hunter therapeutic effect on recovering the HIV main target cells, the activated CD4(+) T lymphocytes. These cells assist in setting up an immune response to opportunistic infections. The study analyzed the hunter dual mechanisms to control infection and because of diverse estimates for viral production and clearance of HIV, simulations were examined at rates spanning an order of magnitude. Results indicate that without hunter-HIV fusion ability, hunters that kill HIV-infected cells lead to a substantial recovery of healthy cell population at both low and high HIV turnover rates. When hunter-HIV fusion is included, cell recovery was particularly enhanced at lower HIV turnover rates. This study shows that the fusion ability, in addition to hunter infection ability, could be a favorable attribute for improving the efficacy of hunter-viral therapy. These results provide support for the potential use of engineered viruses to control HIV and other viral infections.

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Published in Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, v. 9, 52.

© 2012 Greer and Garcia-Ramos; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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