Not All Viruses are Created Equally

Mutations can render HIV meds ineffective while impairing the virus' ability to kill healthy cells

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) In a minority of HIV patients, the virus loses its ability to kill immune cells (which is good) in spite of a lack of response to anti-retroviral treatment (which is bad).

The finding indicates that not all HIV viruses equally wreak havoc on the immune system. Current treatments for the disease attempt to block the virus from reproducing, allowing the immune system to repair itself. Certain mutations can render HIV drugs ineffective, however, and in the process of doing so impair the ability of the virus to cause disease.

Andrew Badley, M.D., the Mayo Clinic's infectious disease researcher and senior author of the study, said the findings indicate that "in contrast to how these patients have been treated in the past ... changing treatments might not be needed in order to help the immune system."

HIV progressively kills CD4 T cells, whose job it is to orchestrate the immune system. Loss of these cells make patients vulnerable to a host of infections and cancers. Over the years the virus has evolved many ways to kill CD4 T cells.

Dr. Badley concludes, "Results from the current study suggest that if a patient is failing their current treatment, and other effective drugs are not available, then it may be best to take advantage of the virus' lessened ability to kill CD4 T cells by staying on the same medication." 

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Review Date: 
November 30, 2010
Last Updated:
December 1, 2010