Could infection by one virus save you from getting sick with a germ that’s much worse? A University of Iowa researcher says that seems to be the case with the virus that causes AIDS, which may be at least slowed in its progress by a harmless microbe called “GB Virus Type C.”
Doctor Jack Stapleton is a researcher at the V-A Healthcare System as well as a professor in the U-of-I School of Medicine. He thought “it seemed a little crazy” but since the H-I-V clinic has samples from patients going back to 1988 they were able to check, and discovered those who first came into the treatment program infected with the GBV-C virus as well as H-I-V were less likely to have died since then.
“One of the mysteries of H-I-V over the years is why do some people progress and become ill very rapidly,” the doctor says, “while others seem to be very healthy for decades.” While it’s only one of several factors, he thinks this virus is a major factor.
Stapleton says the second virus is no magic bullet, and doesn’t prevent a person from being infected with the H-I-V virus. It doesn’t look like it — in studies of people from around the world, Stapleton says in a group of 400 cases with records from both before and after the people were infected with H-I-V, and he says GVB-C did not appear to protect them from the virus that causes AIDS at all. Stioll, Stapleton says it’s worth further study.
They’ve found a protein in the “good” virus that powerfully inhibits the growth of H-I-V in cells of the body. If we can further understand how it works, and “whittle down” the amount of protein required, he says it may be possible to develop a drug that would mimic that effect. Stapleton’s team reported that up to fifteen-percent of healthy people show signs of current or past infection with GVB-C, which doesn’t make them sick but offers promise for longer survival in the H-I-V-infected.