Stronger Immune Response = Faster Disease Progression?

BY HIV Plus Editors

October 29 2009 12:00 AM ET

One of the more puzzling clinical aspects of HIV is that women tend to experience more rapid disease progression than men. And now researchers at the Ragon Institute might know why. Ironically, it could be because of more robust immune responses to the virus.

Lab tests have shown that women's immune systems more quickly recognize invading virus and ramp up production of a chemical to activate CD8-cell defenses. But that robust immune response may be detrimental later; studies have shown that chronic, ongoing immune activation leads to faster progression of HIV. So while HIV levels are generally lower in women immediately after infection, they tend to fall further and faster than men's in the long run.

The researchers hope their findings lead to new therapeutic approaches to regulate initial immune system responses to the virus'and to a better understanding of gender differences in responses to the virus and the drugs used to suppress it.

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