A weapon that HIV uses to invade human cells has been identified by scientists trying to figure out all the different ways the AIDS-causing virus launches its powerful attack on the immune system.
U.S. government researchers say they've identified a new HIV receptor, which helps guide the virus to a place in the gut where it can begin its assault on the body, reports The New York Times.
The discovery was reported Sunday in the journal Nature Immunology by a team led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
It's been long understood that HIV prefers to invade the gut's lymph nodes and tissues, then replicate itself. Fauci and his colleagues found that a molecule called alpha-4 beta-7, which is programmed to direct immune cells to the gut, also acts as a receptor for HIV, the newspaper said.
Several other receptors for HIV have been identified previously. Scientists have been trying for years to identify these molecules, then target them with newly devised drugs as a way to stop HIV from invading human cells and replicating itself.