There is a group of people who are infected with HIV but do not show any signs of immune system deterioration or any of the other symptoms that most HIV positive patients exhibit. These individuals are called long term non-progressors. The percentage of individuals who fall into this category is small and much study is being done to discover why the disease does not progress in the same fashion as in other infected individuals.
A long term non-progressor is defined as an individual which has been infected with HIV but does not show significant viral load increases or significant CD4+ T cell count decline over a period of at least seven years. These individuals are not common and many may go undetected as they will be less likely to seek treatment for HIV as they do not exhibit the symptoms of advanced infection for many years after infection has taken place. For more information on hiv insurance, go to http://www.aidslifecover.co.za
One factor which has been pinpointed is a genetic mutation on the part of the infected individual. However, it has been established that this genetic mutation alone is not sufficient explanation for every case of long term non-progression. A study was conducted in 1997 which involved thirty three long term non-progressor patients. It was found that each individual represented a unique combination of genetic factors, immune system factors and lifestyle factors which prevented the disease from progressing.
In spite of the evidence of a wide range of potential factors affecting the long term non-progression of the disease it was found that a specific genetic mutation in the CCR5 cellular receptor of the immune system inhibited the virus’ ability to replicate and spread. It was found that individuals with one of two particular mutations in the genetic makeup of the CCR5 gene showed far slower progression than those without any mutation. These individuals represent a high proportion of the HIV positive patients identified as being long term non-progressors. Those individuals who showed two mutations were found to be protected from HIV infection.
It was found that the presence of the mutation is not the only reason why an individual may become a long term non-progressor. There was no evidence found during the course of the study that suggested that long term non-progressors with the mutation would inevitably exhibit lower virus and higher CD4+ T cell counts than long term non-progressors without any CCR5 gene mutation. It was however concluded that the presence of one of the two particular genetic mutations of the CCR5 gene increased the chances of an infected individual becoming a long term non-progressor.
Studies on long term non-progressors play a vital role in the investigation of how the virus operates and can be overcome. The studies are used to examine and discover factors which prevent or slow the progression of the virus. The results of these studies are utilized in the development of treatments for the disease and it is hoped that, in time, a cure for HIV infection will be discovered as a result of these studies.