One in 10 children with HIV have a ‘monkey-like’ immune system that protects them from developing AIDS, according to a new study which may lead to new immune-based therapies for the deadly infection.
HIV infection in children leads to the death of 60 per cent of them before two and a half years of age. The same infection in the monkeys is not deadly.
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HIV eventually wipes out the immune system, making the body vulnerable to other infections and leading to the development of AIDS.
The study by researchers, including those from University of Oxford in the UK, was conducted on 170 children who had HIV in South Africa. These children never had any antiretroviral therapy, but had not developed AIDS.
Researchers claimed that every millilitre of these children’s blood had lakhs of human immunodeficiency viruses, but they never fell ill, ‘BBC News’ reported.
“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,” said Philip Goulder, one of the researchers from the University of Oxford.
“Counter-intuitively, 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, even more of them can be killed by chronic levels of inflammation,” said 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,” Goulder added.
These children’s immune system responded to HIV in a similar manner as 40 non-human primate species cope with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), researchers said.
“Natural selection has worked in these cases, and the mechanism is very similar to the one in these kids that don’t progress,” Goulder said.
The study appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine.