Magazine article Science News

HIV Can Linger Years with No Antibodies

Magazine article Science News

HIV Can Linger Years with No Antibodies

Article excerpt

HIV can linger years with no antibodies

The AIDS-causing virus, HIV, can reside in individuals for three years without triggering production of the antibodies doctors use as evidence of AIDS infection, new research indicates.

The findings, which suggest that prolonged viral latency in HIV-infected people may be more common than previously recognized, add a dark cloud to an already bleak AIDS horizon. But a potential silver lining emerges as well, researchers say. On the one hand, the study suggests that many people who test negative for HIV antibodies may in fact be infected. If these people can infect others via sexual contact or blood transfusion -- something researchers stress remains uncertain in these individuals -- then the likelihood of inadvertent disease transmission may be substantially increased. On the other hand, the research suggests some infected individuals can suppress viral activity so effectively that for years they may show no antibody response, let alone symptoms of disease. This provides hope that scientists may eventually develop drugs or other treatment approaches that could delay disease onset indefinitely in infected individuals.

David T. Imagawa of the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine and his colleagues followed 133 homosexual men who at six-month intervals repeatedly tested negative for HIV antibodies despite continued high-risk sexual activity. Using sensitive viral culture techniques, the researchers detected HIV in 31 (23 percent) of these men, 27 of whom have remained without detectable antibodies for up to 36 months after infection. …

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