updated 3/8/2010 11:42:22 AM ET 2010-03-08T16:42:22

The virus that causes AIDS can hide in the bone marrow, avoiding drugs and later awakening to cause illness, according to new research that could point the way toward better treatments for the disease.

Finding that hide-out is a first step, but years of research lie ahead.

Dr. Kathleen Collins of the University of Michigan and her colleagues report in this week's edition of the journal Nature Medicine that the HIV virus can infect long-lived bone marrow cells that eventually convert into blood cells.

The virus is dormant in the bone marrow cells, she said, but when those progenitor cells develop into blood cells, it can be reactivated and cause renewed infection. Collins says the virus kills the new blood cells and then moves on to infect other cells.

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