Thursday, March 04, 2004

Mysterious virus may thwart HIV

22:00 03 March 04
NewScientist.com news service

 Journal reference: New England Journal of Medicine (vol 350, p 981)

HIV patients who are also infected by a second, mysterious virus are less likely to develop AIDS and die of the disease, suggests a new study.

Up to six years after their initial HIV-infection, men whose blood contained the second virus - known simply as GB virus C (GBV-C) - were nearly three times less likely to die than HIV-positive men who did not have the secondary infection.

Understanding how this virus protects against AIDS and death could suggest new ways to fight HIV infections, says Jack Stapleton at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, US, one of the study's senior authors. "We are certainly ready to look at this virus ever more finely and probe its biology," says Stapleton. "But I think a lot of HIV researchers will notice this and it will be a very hot field."

"Until now, there have been many doubting Thomases who didn't believe this viral antiviral effect even existed," says Roger Pomerantz of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. "This puts an end to the debate."