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Body Chemical May 'Turn On' Dormant AIDS

November 07, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A substance normally produced by the body during infection or drug use can play a role in changing latent exposure to AIDS into an active disease that kills, researchers reported Friday.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci said in an interview that, in research at the National Institutes of Health, he and four colleagues for the first time were able to show how a natural body chemical can "turn on" the virus that causes AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

"This may be one of the mechanisms that turns a latent infection into an active infection," Fauci said.

"We're not saying it's the only way because there may be others."

AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. This virus typically lies dormant for five to seven years before it progresses to an active infection that disables the body's immune system.

A key goal of AIDS researchers has been an understanding of the mechanism that causes the HIV virus to evolve from a harmless latency detected only by blood tests into a vicious infection that kills.

Using human cells infected with the AIDS virus, Fauci said he and his colleagues were able to cause the virus to become active by exposing the cells to cytokine, a protein substance that is secreted into the bloodstream by the body's immune system.

The scientist said the experiment suggests the AIDS virus gradually can be activated by infections or chemicals that would cause the repeated secretion of cytokine.

Fauci said the study also suggests, "but does not prove," that people who have tested positive for AIDS could delay active symptoms of the disease by adopting a life style that limits the secretion of cytokine.

That, he said, would include avoiding "noxious insults to the body," such as recreational drugs, which can trigger cytokine.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the Health Department, using a new, broader definition of AIDS, reported a record monthly total of 171 new AIDS cases in October.

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