How HIV Defeats the Immune System; HIV: 20 Years of Research; Exclusive Online Issues; by Martin A. Nowak and Andrew J. McMichael; 7 Page(s)
The interplay between the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the immune system turns out to be significantly more dynamic than most scientists would have suspected. Recent research indicates that HIV replicates prodigiously and destroys many cells of the immune system each day. But this growth is met, usually for many years, by a vigorous defensive response that blocks the virus from multiplying out of control. Commonly, however, the balance of power eventually shifts so that HIV gains the upper hand and causes the severe immune impairment that defines fullblown AIDS.
We have put forward an evolutionary hypothesis that can explain the ultimate escape of the virus from immune control, the typically long delay between infection and the onset of AIDS, and the fact that the extent of this delay can vary considerably from patient to patient. Most infected individuals advance to AIDS over the course of 10 years or so, but some patients are diagnosed within two years of infection, and others avoid AIDS for 15 years or more.