HIV-infected South African children have rare resistance to AIDS

Scientists have discovered more than 100 African children who appear to be resistant to the human immunodeficiency virus.

SOUTH AFRICA (Next Media Online) – Scientists have discovered more than 100 African children who appear to be resistant to the human immunodeficiency virus.

Researchers found 170 HIV-infected children in South Africa who did not develop AIDS despite high levels of the virus in their blood, calling them non-progressors, according to a new study published in Science Translational Medicine.

The children, aged 5 and older, were infected in the womb, and remain healthy even without receiving antiviral treatment.

In most patients, HIV cripples the immune system by infecting CD4 T-cells that respond to the viral threat. Higher activation results in a more widespread infection, often leading to AIDS.

By contrast, low levels of immune activation are seen in non-progressors, whose weak immune systems did not engage the virus.

Their T-cells were found to have low levels of the receptor protein CCR5, on which the HIV virus attaches to enter the cell. Fewer particles get in, resulting in fewer cells dying.

The unique defense method basically renders the virus incapable of infecting target cells. It has previously been seen in monkeys.

A similar immunity is exhibited by a small percentage of adults called elite controllers, but in their case, mounting a strong immune response is the way to beat the virus.

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