Intestinal Tract Said To
Open The Door To HIV Infection
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Researchers have discovered why HIV infection thrives in the gut rather than in blood circulating in the body's periphery. They say this information may help in developing new strategies to battle HIV.
HIV appears to have an easier time establishing itself in the gut than it does in the circulatory system, according to a report in the current issue of the journal AIDS.
University of California Los Angeles investigators have found that key immune system cells in the gut are particularly receptive to HIV. T-cells there have six times the number of receptors compared with circulating blood cells, the researchers say.
Dr. Peter Anton, an associate professor of digestive diseases at UCLA, led the study.
In an interview with Reuters Health, Anton noted that studies in monkeys have shown that regardless of HIV's port of entry into the body, viral cells flock to the gut. The T-cells in the gut's mucus lining, he explained, are different from those circulating in the blood, and this difference appears to make them more vulnerable to HIV.
This helps to explain why unprotected sex is so risky, according to Anton. Just a small tear in mucosal surfaces opens the door to HIV. ``This underscores the need for protection during sex,'' Anton said.
The findings also bolster treatment research already underway, he noted. Scientists are investigating whether a drug designed to block the T-cell receptors can be put into a lubricant or spermicide in order to prevent the spread or transmission of HIV.
SOURCE: AIDS, August 2000
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