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Study finds defects in HIV virus can prevent Aids developing

Researchers in Catalonia, Tenerife and Madrid follow the cases of five long-term patients who need no treatment



10 April 2018 07:19 PM


ACN | Barcelona

Researchers in Catalonia, Tenerife and Madrid have discovered that certain defects in the HIV virus can prevent the illness developing without the need for treatment. The joint project between the IrsiCaixa Aids Research Institute (Barcelona), the Laguna University (Tenerife) and the Carlos III Institute of Health (Madrid) found that a defect in the protein of the viral envelope of the HIV virus can stop Aids developing without any antiretroviral therapy.

Published on Tuesday in the 'mBio' journal, the study is based on five patients who became infected by the disease through sharing syringes in the 1980s and, despite having different immunological profiles, have not required treatment for the past 25 years. The five patients are all examples of ‘elite controllers’, a small minority of people who have such low levels of the virus in their blood that they can be infected with HIV for years without developing Aids.

Generation of antibodies

‘Elite controllers’ are often studied by researchers aiming to understand how their bodies control the HIV infection. The subjects in the IrsiCaixa study all showed defects in the viral envelopes surrounding the virus that make replication inefficient, allowing the immune systems of the patients to control the virus without the need for treatment. The next step will be to see if the defective viruses in these patients can be used to generate antibodies to help develop a vaccine.

Defects in these viruses can be passed on

Another relevant fact in the study is that the defects in these viruses can be passed on from one person to another. The study concluded that the defects in the virus were passed on to all five patients, which means that people with very different genetic and immunological profiles can be turned into ‘elite controllers’. Thus, the researchers conclude that if someone is infected with a defective virus, they will adopt the characteristics of the virus, meaning that the person is not the only factor to take into consideration when making a controller, but also the virus that infects them.


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  • Image of an IrsiCaixa lab on February 2017 (by IrsiCaixa/Jordi Anguera)