BOSTON — Revving up the immune system has the paradoxical effect of boosting production of the AIDS virus in people who carry it and may also make the uninfected more susceptible to HIV, new research suggests.
A study found a temporary surge in the human immunodeficiency virus in the blood when infected people received a booster shot of the tetanus vaccine. That shows that when the immune system powers up to fight an infection, the AIDS virus gears up as well.
The study, led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is published in today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
In the new study, doctors gave tetanus shots to both people with HIV and uninfected volunteers. Virus levels shot up in all 13 of the infected people. The increases ranged from double to 36 times higher. They reached a peak within two weeks and returned to previous levels after six weeks.
In seven of the 10 uninfected people, the tetanus shots made it easier to infect their blood cells with HIV in the test tube.