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HIV Might Spread More Quickly Within Body Than Thought

Armen Hareyan's picture

Each rhesusmonkey cell infected with the simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV, producesat least 50,000 viruses over its life span, suggesting HIV spreads more rapidlythan previously estimated, according to a study by researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratories, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.

Researcher Alan Perelson and colleagues created an SIV strain that could infectone cell and reproduce, but the offspring were unable to infect other cells. Afterinfecting rhesus monkeys with the strain, researchers examined the monkeys andcounted the number of viruses made from the one cell over its life span.

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According to Perelson, SIV and HIV act similarly, so it is likely that HIVcould behave the same way. He noted that prior studies, which found that an HIVcell produced 1,000 to 2,000 viruses, examined the cell at a single point intime instead of a cell's entire life span. "Overall, ... this tells us theinfection is a lot tougher to combat," Perelson said, adding, "Earlyin the infection, sharing needles, blood, if a small number of cells aretransferred, the disease has a larger chance of spreading through the bodyquickly."

Bette Korber, a LANL fellow and HIV expert, said the findings are a helpfultool to study HIV, but they cannot be used directly in vaccine research. "Thislets us know more what we're up against," Korber said, adding, "Maybeit tells us something about the efficacy of a vaccine. Maybe you can't protectagainst infection, but you could try to find a way to stop the progression ofHIV." According to the researchers, a similar test would be difficult toconduct among humans because the subject would have to be dead beforescientists could count how much the virus had reproduced (Vorenberg, SantaFe New Mexican, 4/13).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Reportis published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. KaiserFamily Foundation.