July 7, 2009
An international contingent of nearly 500 researchers and physicians are taking part in the International HIV Controllers Study, which is examining "the phenomenon," in which certain people living with HIV seem "somehow protected from AIDS," the Washington Post reports. Fewer "than one in every 300 cases, or perhaps 5,000 of the more than 1 million infected Americans" living with HIV are deemed "'elite controllers' because their ability to combat the virus puts them in exceptional company among infected individuals," according to the Post. The article states, "No one knows how their bodies keep AIDS at bay. Are their immune systems exceptionally strong and effective? Do they possess some genetic trait that protects them? Or does a combination of still-unknown factors set them apart?" Researchers anticipate that studying the T cell levels -- which helps determine the progression to AIDS -- of the elite controllers, will enable them "to uncover what shields these rare few from AIDS. And perhaps in the process they'll find a way to safeguard everyone else as well," the Post reports (Slack, 7/7).