Rare Group Of Children Are IMMUNE To AIDS, Scientists Reveal

A rare group of children is immune to AIDS, scientists believe.

The 170 boys and girls in South Africa are known as 'non-progressors'.

They were all born with HIV, after being infected in the womb, and still have extremely high levels of the disease in their blood.

Rare Group Of Children Are IMMUNE To AIDS, Scientists Reveal

But they are completely healthy.

Most importantly, their infection has not made the natural progression to AIDS - and doctors believe it never will, even without antiretroviral (ART) drugs.

The phenomenon, explained in a report by the University of Oxford on Thursday, could seem to defy logic.

HIV attacks a sufferer's immune system, leaving them open to infections, and causing their disease to develop into AIDS.

But these children, all over the age of five, have a uniquely weak immune system.

While that may seem to be dangerous, the report's lead researcher Dr Philip Goulder explains it is this biological quirk that means they have an almost zero per cent chance of contracting AIDS.

Essentially there are not enough immune cells for the virus to infect and destroy, which is the way it grows.

That is exactly what antiretroviral drugs are designed to do - suppress the immune system to deprive HIV of fuel.

'The critical factor was that they had very low levels of immune activation,' Professor Goulder said.

'We saw a failure of HIV to activate the immune system.

'It's difficult for the virus to get into [their immune cells], so they remain relatively unscathed.'

Professor Goulder and his colleagues have been monitoring blood samples of HIV patients for years, and found that just five per cent of children are non-progressors.

Their research shows these 'non-progressors' have lower levels of certain a receptor protein on cells.

Normally, the HIV virus accesses cells through this protein (which is called CCR5).

But without it, there are few - if any routes for the infection to take to proliferate.

Like all sufferers, these children will soon be put on ART, since the UN changed its guidelines to say all children with HIV need to take medication.

But Professor Goulder explains that they don't need it.



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