Alcohol researchers show 'friendly' virus slows HIV cell growth

A team of alcohol researchers led by Jack Stapleton, M.D., of the Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa College of Medicine and the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center, report in the September 6 New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 345, 2001 (Effect of co-infection with GB virus type C (Hepatitis G Virus) on survival of HIV-infected individuals: In vitro co-infection suggests inhibition of HIV replication by GB virus C) that GB virus type C (GBV-C) appears to have retarded the progression of human immunodeficiency virus in a 12-year clinical study of HIV patients. Using an infectious molecular clone of GBV-C, the same team showed in a laboratory study that GBV-C reduces the growth rate of HIV in cultured human T-cells, a form of white blood cells or lymphocytes.

The clinical finding came while Dr. Stapleton and his colleagues explored relationships among alcohol, seronegative hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, GBV-C infection, and liver disease in patients of the University of Iowa HIV/AIDS Clinic. Damaging effects of alcohol on immune function, including effects in patients with HIV and AIDS, are a longstanding focus of alcohol research.

In the study population of 362 HIV-infected patients, 144 (39.7 percent) were co-infected with GBV-C, a proportion similar to that of GBV-C co-infection among all HIV patients. Originally known as hepatitis G, GBV-C also infects about 15 percent of patients with hepatitis C. Unlike hepatitis C, however, GBV-C causes neither hepatitis nor any other clinical symptoms.

"From several earlier studies that examined the relationship of HIV and GBV-C, we suspected that GBV-C might exert a positive effect toward slowing the progress of HIV infection. We expanded the previous research by looking at a very large group of patients followed at our clinic between 1988 and 2000 and found that HIV-infected people without GBV-C infection were 3.68 times more likely to die than those with GBV-C," Dr

Contact: Ann Bradley
NIH/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

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