Women Are Naturally Weaker to HIV

A recent US study shows that HIV reacts differently among women compared to men.  While HIV progresses faster in women than in men who have similar levels of HIV in the blood, the study has found that a receptor molecule involved in the first-line recognition of HIV responds differently in women.

According to the study conducted by the researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital, which was published in Nature Medicine, a higher percentage of our immune system’s frontline cells became activated among healthy, uninfected women when presented with HIV-1 as compared with those of healthy men.  These cells are called plasmacytoid dendritic cells or pDCs.

They also found that pDCs from older women who have yet to undergo menopause have increased activation of pDCs when responding to HIV-1, which they link to higher levels of hormone progesterone.  In turn, women have higher levels of activated CD8-positive T cells than men.

"While stronger activation of the immune system might be beneficial in the early stages of infection, resulting in lower levels of HIV-1 replication, persistent viral replication and stronger chronic immune activation can lead to the faster progression of AIDS that has been seen in women," according to lead researcher Dr. Marcus Altfeld.  The research team has concluded that in the end, drugs that aim to modify this immune reaction might help patients with HIV.

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