Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) have identified a novel variant within the previously identified family of proteins in HIV, called “Delta 20,” an immune system protein that suppresses the most damaging HIV strains, X4, by preventing the virus from infecting cells.
The research is a first step toward enabling doctors to direct the body’s own immune system to eliminate the disease. The method differs from the more traditional method of targeting viruses that may eventually become resistant to specific medical therapies.
The study was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
• The researchers discovered that a family of proteins can restrict certain highly contagious viruses from reproducing themselves during early stages of infection. These viruses include SARS, influenza, dengue and West Nile.
• However, the study focused on HIV-1, the most widespread type of HIV worldwide.
• HIV can be classified into R5 and X4 virus strains. R5 viruses are exclusively associated with primary infection, while X4 viruses emerge in later stages of HIV disease among half of HIV carriers. When doctors detect the X4 strain in a patient, it’s a sign that the patient’s HIV infection has progressed to a serious stage. The new study shows a way to suppress X4 strain.
• Within the family of virus-stunting proteins they previously identified, the researchers found that one particular protein could prevent the virus from infecting cells. They nicknamed it Delta 20.
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