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UF researchers track genetic journey of HIV from birth to death
Date:10/16/2007

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- University of Florida scientists have discovered how HIV evolves over the course of a persons lifetime into a more deadly form that heralds the onset of full-blown AIDS. The findings could pave the way for new therapeutic agents that target the virus earlier in the disease process, before it takes a lethal turn, researchers say.

We were very interested in understanding how the virus mutates from the beginning of the infection until the end, said Marco Salemi, an assistant professor of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine in the UF College of Medicine and lead author on the study, which appeared in an online issue of the journal PLoS ONE in September. Previously, the only thing known was that somehow the HIV population mutates. And as soon as that happens, patients start developing AIDS. But no one knew how and where the population evolved over time.

To find out, UF researchers began tracking four children born with HIV, studying blood samples taken at birth, throughout life and just after death, when tissues samples were also taken. Using a high-resolution computational technique, they monitored mutations in a protein that helps HIV attach to human cells and then categorized the virus into two groups, R5 and X4. The R5 population is usually present in high numbers during the early stages of infection. But the X4 population enters the scene later, just before HIV gives way to full-blown AIDS. The researchers tracked the viruses in each patient to find out when and where the telltale X4 population first appeared.

The general dogma has always been that the X4 viruses are more pathogenic than the R5 viruses. And that really isnt true. People die from the R5 viruses, said Maureen Goodenow, senior author of the paper and the Stephany W. Holloway university chair for AIDS research in the UF College of Medicine. But certainly evolution of these X4 viruses is not a good prognostic indicator. So if we could under
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Contact: Ann Griswold
anngriswold@gmail.com
352-273-5819
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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