According to a new study, Lentiviruses closely related to HIV have infected primates in Africa as far back as 16 million years. The researchers of Boston College focused on an antiviral gene called TRIM5, which is part of a group of antiviral genes called “restriction factors,” which have evolved to protect host cells from infection by viruses.
Its product, the TRIM5 protein, interacts directly with the outer shell of lentivirus particles after they enter the host cells and prevents the virus from multiplying there. The human version of TRIM5 does not interfere with – and therefore not protect against – HIV, but many monkeys have TRIM5 variants that do render HIV harmless and are therefore immune to HIV/AIDS.
Because of its unique specificity for retroviruses, the researchers hypothesised that the evolution of TRIM5 in African monkeys should reveal selection by lentiviruses closely related to modern SIVs.
Facts about HIV/AIDS
- HIV/AIDS remains one of the world’s most significant public health challenges, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
- HIV is spread through contact with the blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, or breast milk of a person infected with HIV.
- The use of HIV medicines to treat HIV infection is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART involves taking a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV regimen) every day.
- ART can’t cure HIV infection, but it can help people infected with HIV live longer, healthier lives.
- Globally, an estimated 36.9 million [34.3–41.4 million] people were living with HIV in 2014, and 2.6 million [2.4–2.8 million] of these were children.
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