One in 10 Chil­dren has “Mon­key-Like” Im­mune Sys­tem that stops them de­vel­op­ing AIDS

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL -

Anew Bri­tish study sug­gests that 10 per­cent of chil­dren have a “mon­key-like” im­mune sys­tem that pre­vents them from de­vel­op­ing AIDS.

The re­search, which was pub­lished in Science Trans­la­tional Medicine, found that the chil­dren’s im­mune sys­tems were “keep­ing calm”, which stopped them be­ing wiped out.

An un­treated HIV in­fec­tion will kill 60 per­cent of chil­dren within two-and-ahalf years, but the equiv­a­lent in­fec­tion in mon­keys – Simian Im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency Virus (SIV) is not fa­tal.

BBC News re­ports that re­searchers an­a­lysed the blood of 170 chil­dren from South Africa who had HIV, had never had an­tiretro­vi­ral ther­apy and had not de­vel­oped AIDS.

Tests showed they had tens of thou­sands of hu­man im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency viruses in ev­ery millil­itre of their blood. This would nor­mally send their im­mune sys­tem into over­drive, try­ing to fight the in­fec­tion, or sim­ply make them se­ri­ously ill, but nei­ther had hap­pened.

Pro­fes­sor Philip Goul­der, one of the re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Ox­ford, told the BBC: “Es­sen­tially, their im­mune sys­tem is ig­nor­ing the virus as far as pos­si­ble. Wag­ing war against the virus is, in most cases, the wrong thing to do.”

In de­fi­ance of con­ven­tional wis­dom, not at­tack­ing the virus seems to save the im­mune sys­tem.

HIV kills white blood cells – the war­riors of the im­mune sys­tem – and when the body’s de­fences go into over­drive, chronic lev­els of in­flam­ma­tion can kill even more of them.

Ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Goul­der: “One of the things that comes out of this study is that HIV dis­ease is not so much to do with HIV, but with the im­mune re­sponse to it.”

Sci­en­tists see strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the way the 10 per­cent of chil­dren cope with the virus and the way more than 40 non-hu­man pri­mate species cope with SIV.

The mon­keys have had hun­dreds of thou­sands of years to evolve ways to tackle the in­fec­tion.

“Nat­u­ral se­lec­tion has worked in these cases, and the mech­a­nism is very sim­i­lar to the one in these kids that don’t progress [to full-blown AIDS],” Prof Goul­der said.

This de­fence against AIDS is al­most unique to chil­dren. Adult hu­mans’ im­mune sys­tems tend to go all-out to fin­ish off the virus in a cam­paign that nearly al­ways ends in fail­ure.

The BBC ex­plains that chil­dren have a rel­a­tively tol­er­ant im­mune sys­tem, which be­comes more ag­gres­sive in adult­hood. Chick­en­pox, for ex­am­ple, is far more se­vere in adults due to the way the im­mune sys­tem re­acts.

Dr. Ann Chahroudi and Dr. Guido Sil­vestri, from Emory Univer­sity in the U.S. said the study might have found the “very ear­li­est signs of co­evo­lu­tion of HIV in hu­mans.”

Pro­fes­sor Goul­der be­lieves these find­ings in chil­dren could ul­ti­mately help re­bal­ance the im­mune sys­tem in all HIV pa­tients.

“We may be iden­ti­fy­ing an en­tirely new path­way by study­ing kids that in the longer term could be trans­lated to new treat­ments for all HIV in­fected peo­ple,” he told the BBC.

The so­lu­tion to the global epi­demic may be closer than we think.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.