Events Immediately Following HIV-Infection Revealed

We now have indications of what happens to an HIV-infected person immediately after infection, according to a study published in the journal Cell.


HIV is only detected after a considerable amount of time following infection. Before that, it is difficult to know and understand what is happening in the person’s body. Thankfully, new research has revealed invaluable information that might help in developing vaccines.

The research is based on SIV, the animal equivalent of HIV. Rhesus monkeys infected with SIV were the subjects of the study. Thus have the early stages of infection been revealed to the researchers, something that is otherwise challenging to do in humans.

The monkeys were analysed on days 0, 1 ,3 ,7, and 10 after being infected by SIV. The observations showed that the propagation of SIV in the body happened at a rapid rate such that its genetic material in the form of RNA was discovered in at least one tissue outside the reproductive organs 24 hours after exposure – this was the case in the majority of the monkeys.

This finding is specially pertinent because the immediate events happening after infection are extremely helpful in deciphering the progression of the infection, says lead author Dan Barouch from Harvard Medical School.

Apart from the rapid spread of the viral RNA, the pathogen also induced local inflammation in infected tissues that is apparently meant to inhibit innate and adaptive immunity, thereby bringing about circumstances that were conducive to its replication. A host protein known as NLRX1 which suppresses immunity increased in number – a trend that correlated with the rise in viral RNA.

The authors are positive that their findings will help develop interventions to curb infection. Barouch says that the study might potentially help to produce vaccines, antibodies, microbicides, and drugs.

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