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Benign virus likely guards against AIDS

Benign virus likely guards against AIDS

A new national study seems to confirm the accuracy of an earlier study that showed that men infected with the AIDS virus live much longer if they also happen to be infected with an obscure virus similar to hepatitis. The study reinforces a startling finding by University of Iowa researchers, the Des Moines Register reports. The second virus, known as GBV-C, is common but relatively unknown. Until a few years ago, researchers thought it had no effect on humans. But in 2001, University of Iowa researchers said that it appeared to offer significant protection from the AIDS virus. The researchers also participated in the new study, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. With the new results in hand, the team is talking about testing GBV-C by purposely infecting people with it and tracking how they fare. For the current study, Iowa City scientists examined blood samples donated by 138 U.S. men infected with HIV. The samples were taken at four sites around the country before 1996, when new anti-AIDS drugs began controlling HIV's growth in patients. Researchers at the University of Iowa and Iowa City's Veterans Medical Center found that 85% of the men with HIV had also been infected with GBV-C. Those patients tended to fare much better than the other 15%, especially if their second infection persisted. The men with GBV-C were about one third as likely to die within six years of their HIV infections. The next step could be to purposely infect people with GBV-C and monitor how it affects their lives.

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