Malaria may fuel spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa

SEATTLE Malaria may be fueling the spread of HIV in areas of sub-Saharan Africa where there is a substantial overlap between the two diseases, while HIV may be playing a role in boosting adult malaria-infection rates in some parts of the region, according to a new study by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington.

The findings, published in the Dec. 8 issue of Science, found that because malaria increases the viral load of an HIV-infected person on the order of 10 times, it makes HIV more transmissible to a sex partner. Conversely, HIV may play a role in the geographic expansion of malaria in Africa because HIV-infected persons are more susceptible to malaria infections due to their already-compromised immune systems, according to study co-authored by Laith J. Abu-Raddad, Ph.D., Padmaja Patnaik, Ph.D. and James G. Kublin M.D., M.P.H.

"While HIV/AIDS is predominantly spreading through sexual intercourse, this biological co-factor induced by malaria has contributed considerably to the spread of HIV by increasing HIV transmission probability per sexual act," said Abu-Raddad, an HIV/AIDS research scientist in the Hutchinson Center's Statistical Center for HIV/AIDS Research and Prevention and the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology at the University of Washington.

"In turn, the weakening of the immune system by HIV infection has fueled a rise in adult malaria-infection rates and may have facilitated the expansion of malaria in Africa," said Kublin, an HIV/AIDS scientist in the Hutchinson Center's Clinical Research Division.

Using a mathematical model designed by Abu-Raddad that was based on HIV and malaria co-infection data in Malawi measured and collected by Kublin, the scientists for the first time were able to assess quantitatively the impact of malaria on HIV and vice versa, as well as provide the first assessment of the role of "blips" in HIV viral load seen during HIV co-infection with

Contact: Dean Forbes
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

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