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Study Examines Interaction Between HIV, Antibody That Helps Fight Infections

July 17, 2008

HIV gradually depletes the number of functioning B cells, an antibody that fights infections, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine that reveals another method used by HIV to affect the immune system, IANS/Thaindian News reports.

According to researchers from NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, B cells initially coat HIV particles to prevent them from infecting other cells, but the B cells tend to become exhausted and unable to fight off the infection. The study found that although HIV-positive people with high viral loads started with high levels of B cells, the cells failed to replicate normally or to produce high-quality antibodies needed to fight HIV. The researchers found that when B cells are overworked or fatigued, they tend to produce a protein called FCRL4, which inhibits the cells' ability to respond to infection (IANS/Thaindian News, 7/15). It is unknown how HIV triggers the production of FCRL4, the researchers noted (ANI/Thaindian News, 7/15).

According to an NIAID release, the institute's HIV vaccine research program aims to increase the understanding of B cells to help develop an effective vaccine. The researchers said that the design of a therapeutic vaccine aimed at slowing HIV progression will need to overcome or circumvent the challenges created by the failure of certain B cells to make high-quality antibodies (NIAID release, 7/14).

An abstract of the study is available online.

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