The role of IL-10 in long-term non-progressors

Sean R Hosein
ACRIA Update, Vol. 11, No. 1, Winter 2001/2002

After becoming HIV-positive, most people usually remain physically well for years. During this time, despite outward appearances, HIV is constantly attacking the immune system.

As the damage from HIV builds up, levels of important immune cells called CD4+ T cells gradually decline. Eventually the body is unable to repair the damaged immune system, leading to an AIDS diagnosis. This decline in the immune system is called disease progression.

It is noteworthy that a small proportion of people have a very different response to HIV — one that is found in only about 1% of HIV positive people. Researchers have found that this minority has relatively high and stable CD4+ T cells, low amounts of HIV in the blood, and no symptoms of HIV-related disease for prolonged periods. These people are not taking anti-HIV therapy and are called long-term non-progressors (LTNPs).

There may be several reasons that some people with HIV become LTNPs. Some are simply lucky to be born with immune cells that are difficult for HIV to enter and infect. Others may be infected with a relatively weak form of HIV. Yet research is accumulating that suggests that a vigorous immune response against HIV may play a role in helping to keep LTNPs healthy. If this immune response could be understood, perhaps better therapies against HIV could be developed.

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