- 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
- 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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