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Harmless virus associated with longer life for some HIV-positive men

Scientists have shown that an apparently harmless virus is associated with longer life for HIV-positive men, but only when it infects them for many years.

Men infected with both HIV and GB virus type C (GBV-C), previously known as hepatitis G, for at least five years were three times less likely to die than HIV-positive men who did not have GBV-C. The study, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, appears in the March 4 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

"We found strong evidence that HIV-positive men who have persistent GBV-C infection survive longer than those who do not have GBV-C. The survival advantage is large and depends on how long the GBV-C infection persists," says senior investigator Jack Stapleton, M.D., of the University of Iowa and Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Carolyn Williams, Ph.D., epidemiology branch chief in NIAID's Division of AIDS, was the lead investigator on this study.

GBV-C, a virus that infects white blood cells, does not cause any known disease. It is transmitted through blood and blood products, and many people carry the virus, some for up to 40 years. Earlier studies have reported improved survival for HIV-positive persons co-infected with GBV-C, but the idea has been controversial. While some investigators found a survival advantage for HIV-positive men with GBV-C infection, others did not. This new study is the first to take into account the duration of GBV-C infection.

Dr. Williams and NIAID established a collaboration between the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) and Dr. Stapleton's laboratory in hopes of finding conclusive evidence on whether GBV-C infection prolonged the lives of HIV-positive men. The MACS (http://www.niaid.nih.gov/reposit/macs.htm), a long-term ongoing study of men who have sex with men, allows researchers to examine
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Contact: Linda Joy
ljoy@niaid.nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
3-Mar-2004


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