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Some HIV Strains Cause Early Damage to Immune System, Study Finds

These fast-replicating strains appear to result in quicker progression

THURSDAY, Feb. 19, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Fast-replicating strains of HIV damage the immune system in the very early stages of infection, resulting in quicker disease progression, a new study says.

The results confirmed previous findings that people with faster-replicating HIV strains have a quicker decline in levels of infection-fighting immune system CD4 T-cells, the researchers reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"These results reinforce our previous findings suggesting that interventions that affect [HIV)] replicative capacity can not only impact disease progression, but also the efficiency of transmission to other people," senior study author Eric Hunter, co-director of Emory University's Center for AIDS Research in Atlanta, said in a university news release.

The finding is independent of viral load and whether patients have certain gene variants that boost immune system response to HIV, the researchers said.

For the study, researchers analyzed HIV samples from 127 newly infected people in Zambia. The samples were collected an average of 46 days after infection and before the patients began antiretroviral therapy.

Patients with fast-replicating, or fast-reproducing, HIV had more signs of inflammation in the first few months after infection, and their T-cells had more signs of "exhaustion," which results in faster disease progression, the study noted.

The findings could prove helpful in efforts to develop HIV vaccines and to eradicate the virus, Hunter said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about HIV/AIDS.

SOURCE: Emory University, news release, Feb. 17, 2015
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