A new study has found that the rapid evolution of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is slowing down its ability to cause Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The findings of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on 1 December 2014.
The study was conducted by Professor Philip Goulder and his team at the Nuffield Department of Medicine at Oxford University.
Apparatus of the Study
Goulder's team conducted their study in Botswana and South Africa, the two countries with high incidences of AIDS.
To start with, they first enrolled more than 2000 pregnant women with HIV and looked at whether the interaction between the body's natural immune response and HIV leads to the virus becoming less virulent or able to cause disease.
In the second part of the study, they examined the impact of antiretroviral therapy (ART) on HIV virulence.
Findings of the study
• The team demonstrated that the weakening of the immunodeficiency virus is due to its rapid evolution and ability to mutate over time.
• A gene known as HLA-B*57 in a person acted as a protection against the HIV virus. The study finds that the virus has adapted to the gene, which therefore no longer offers protection.
• However, the unforeseen result of this is that the mutation of the virus also weakens it and reduces its ability to replicate. One reason for this could be because of the growing use of HIV drugs.
Significance of the Study
• Factors that influence the virulence of HIV are of direct relevance to ongoing efforts to contain and eradicate the HIV epidemic.
• HIV is better adapted to HLA-B*57 gene which in Botswana has no protective effect, in contrast to its impact in South Africa.
• Modelling studies indicate that increasing antiretroviral therapy access may also contribute to accelerated declines in HIV virulence over the coming decades.