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HIV immune population found in central Africa

Wednesday March 3rd 2021

Thousands of people in central Africa may have immunity to HIV infection, it was announced last night in a discovery that researchers say will open the way to new treatments.

The research, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, will be followed by genetic analysis searching for the factors that provide the immunity.

A study of more than 10,000 people found an HIV prevalence of 11% - but also 429 people HIV antibody positive people with no signs of viral load.

The findings, reported in EBiomedicine, were confounded by large numbers of participants not mentioning that they were on antiretroviral therapy – but the researchers say the findings support an estimate that between 2.7% and 4.3% of HIV infected people in this central African country have no viral load.

Researcher Dr Tom Quinn, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health, USA, said: "The finding of a large group of HIV elite controllers in the DRC is significant considering that HIV is a life-long, chronic condition that typically progresses over time.

"There have been rare instances of the infection not progressing in individuals prior to this study, but this high frequency is unusual and suggests there is something interesting happening at a physiological level in the DRC that’s not random."

Terrence Higgins Trust medical director Dr Michael Brady said: “Scientific progress in our understanding of HIV continues to move at a fast pace. Thanks to modern, effective treatments, people living with HIV will now live long and healthy lives and can be confident that they won't pass the virus on to their partners. However, we still need to keep working towards the development of an effective vaccine and, eventually, a cure.

“The more we are able to understand the relationship between the virus and our immune systems, the closer we can get to that goal.”

A high prevalence of potential HIV elite controllers identified over 30 years in Democratic Republic of Congo. EBiomedicine 2 March 2021

[abstract]

Tags: Africa | Flu & Viruses | North America

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