Previous studies have relied on cell culture or animal models to follow the virus mutations over time. The UF researchers are among the first groups to study the progression of HIV in human patients.
As the study revealed new information about the evolution of HIV, UF scientists learned that most viral changes take place in the thymus, a small organ located behind the breastbone that is responsible for immune cell development.
We found that the late-stage viruses, the X4 viruses, were localized predominantly in the thymus, Goodenow said. It says that the thymus is the place where these viruses develop, or at least where theyre localized and replicate.
The origin of the X4 viruses has puzzled scientists for years. The UF research reveals that the X4 viruses are not present in the body all along, as some scientists had speculated, but rather, that they evolve directly from the R5 population just before the onset of AIDS. The researchers also found that HIV followed a similar path in each child, regardless of variations in the patients medical histories.
Were starting to see what looks like a program of virus development over time. And it doesnt matter who the person is. And it doesnt matter what the time scale is, Goodenow said. Its raising the possibility that, in fact, the evolutionary track of the virus is not totally random. There could be a real developmental program that the virus goes through.
Eight years ago, when the National Institutes of Health-funded study began, pregnant women infected with HIV had few therapeutic options. But recent advances in prenatal drug therapies have substantially decreased the rates of mother-to-child transmission. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that less than 2 pe
|Contact: Ann Griswold|
University of Florida