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Those infected with HIV may benefit from infection with another virus, says Jefferson virologist

Another virus could hold a key to helping researchers devise new strategies against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. A new study appearing March 4 in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that individuals infected with two viruses HIV and the little known GBV-C actually do better than those infected with only HIV.

According to Roger J. Pomerantz, M.D., professor of medicine, biochemistry and molecular pharmacology, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Environmental Medicine and director of the Center for Human Virology and Biodefense at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, the HIV-GBV-C connection may be the first known example of infection with two human viruses being better for a person than infection with only one in this case, HIV.

"The [New England Journal] paper is very important because it sets to rest a controversial issue," says Dr. Pomerantz, who co-wrote an accompanying editorial in the journal. The study analyzed results from the Multicenter Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome Cohort Study, which involved following a large group of HIV-infected men in the United States over 15 years. "People who are dual-infected do better than those infected with only HIV. They do better in terms of being less likely and taking a longer time to progress to AIDS, in addition to being less likely to die from AIDS."

Understanding this viral relationship, he says, could have important implications.

"If we could understand the mechanism behind this phenomenon, maybe we could copy nature and develop a copycat molecule and a better antiviral," Dr. Pomerantz says.

Dr. Pomerantz should know. He was skeptical when he initially encountered several small, unconfirmed studies a few years ago showing that HIV-infected individuals appeared to do better when they also were infected with GBV-C. Viruses such as Epstein-Barr virus and herpes simplex 2, for example, are supposed to make things worse.
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Contact: Steve Benowitz
steven.benowitz@jefferson.edu
215-955-5291
Thomas Jefferson University
3-Mar-2004


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