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TheBody.com/TheBodyPRO.com covers The 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2012)

GBV-C: A Virus That Could Be Beneficial for People Living With HIV

March 9, 2012

GB virus C (GBV-C) is a virus that could help inhibit HIV replication within HIV-infected people, according to several studies presented at CROI 2012.

While it's been suggested in past studies that having GBV-C decreases HIV viral loads, increases CD4+ cell counts and increases survival among HIV-infected individuals, a handful of posters at CROI 2012 sought to confirm this association, and to look into how and why.

GBV-C is an RNA virus identified in the late 1990s. It was originally known as hepatitis G because of its genetic similarities to hepatitis C; however, since it does not cause hepatitis, the name was changed. In fact, studies have failed to link GBV-C to any clinically significant diseases. It is transmitted through sex, intravenous injection and childbirth. Blood products are not routinely screened for GBV-C.

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Researchers from California, led by Farnaz Vahidnia of the Blood Systems Research Institute, reviewed data from the Viral Activation Transfusion Study (VATS), a trial that ran from 1994 to 2001 and compared the effects of leuko-reduced versus non-leuko-reduced blood transfusions in HIV-infected transfusion-naive individuals. Using blood samples from that study, the researchers tested for GBV-C before and after transfusion and analyzed how that affected HIV mortality.

Their findings show that having GBV-C "was associated with a significant reduction in mortality among GBV-C co-infected VATS subjects, after adjusting for HAART status, HIV viral load, and CD4 cell count." Moreover, they found that GBV-C acquisition specifically via transfusion was "associated with a significant reduction in mortality in HIV-positive individuals, controlling for HIV disease markers."

Another study, which co-transfected 293 CD4+ cells with specific proteins of GBV-C and HIV, found that GBV-C interferes with the Gag protein in HIV, which "diminishes HIV-1 infection by decreasing HIV-1 assembly, maturation and release which is required for virions to infect a new host cell."

A third study tested blood samples in 324 HIV-infected individuals and found GBV-C in 112 of them. However, the results were a little conflicting. The researchers found that different isolates of GBV-C vary in their ability to inhibit HIV. The researchers could not correlate GBV-C replication itself with inhibiting HIV, but they did identify two amino acids within the E2 protein of GBV-C that may explain the mechanism behind the GBV-C isolates that do inhibit HIV replication.

What does this all mean? For starters, it is intriguing to find a seemingly harmless virus that actually helps inhibit HIV. However, it is important to note that more research needs to be done to uncover exactly how GBV-C inhibits HIV. From there, perhaps new forms of HIV treatment options can be developed.

Warren Tong is the research editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.


Copyright © 2012 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.




This article was provided by TheBodyPRO.com. It is a part of the publication The 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.
 


 

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Please note: Knowledge about HIV changes rapidly. Note the date of this summary's publication, and before treating patients or employing any therapies described in these materials, verify all information independently. If you are a patient, please consult a doctor or other medical professional before acting on any of the information presented in this summary. For a complete listing of our most recent conference coverage, click here.

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