UPDATE – One thing that has long puzzled researchers is the small number of people who are infected with the HIV virus but don’t come down with AIDS. UPDATE: New research breakthroughs may mean that soon, people with AIDS may be able to stave off the effects of the disease by taking regular doses of a protein that prevents deterioration of the immune system.
In Africa, around one in 300 cases of people with HIV do not go on to get AIDS. Canadian studies show that, in the West at least, these cases may be around 1% to 2% of all infected people.
Researchers have now figured out how HIV “exhausts” killer normal T cells in the immune system that would otherwise attack it by flipping a molecular switch in the cells. The HIV-positive people who don’t get AIDS may be people whose body?s T cells can somehow resist this.
Oliver Laeyendecker of Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore thinks that these people either have a genetic predisposition which gives them a stronger immune system or have been infected with a weak strain of HIV which does not completely destroy the immune system. A few years ago, it was reported that people whose ancestors had lived through the bubonic plague, a flea-borne disease which killed an estimated one third of Europe’s population during the Middle Ages, have immune systems that are less vulnerable to the HIV virus. Since these would be people with European genes, it?s may be the main reason why AIDS has decimated Africa. But there have been of examples of this immunity in Africa: ten years ago, it was discovered that some female prostitutes in Kenya were completely resistant to the HIV virus. They had probably been exposed to low levels of HIV so many times that they eventually built up an immunity to it.
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UPDATE: A team of researchers has announced an important breakthrough in fighting HIV. Dr. Rafick-Pierre S
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