Science News (04/03/93) Vol. 143, No. 14, P. 215 (Fackelmann,
Scientists conducting test tube experiments have found that
herpesvirus-6 can attack the human immune system's natural
killer cells. This attack causes the killer cells to
malfunction, diminishing an important component in the immune
system's fight against diseases. Also, the herpesvirus-6 may
be a factor in immune diseases, such as AIDS. In 1989, Paolo
Lusso's research found that herpesvirus-6 attacks another
white cell, the CD4 T-lymphocyte, which is the primary target
of HIV. Lusso also found that herpesvirus-6 can kill natural
killer cells. Scientists previously knew that the natural
killer cells of patients infected with HIV do not work
correctly. Lusso's research represents the first time
scientists have indicated that natural killer cells are
vulnerable to any kind of viral attack, according to Anthony
L. Komaroff, a researcher with Harvard Medical School.
Despite the test-tube findings, scientists are uncertain
whether the same result occurs in the body. Lusso's team also
found that herpesvirus-6 produces the CD4 receptor molecule
that provides access for HIV. CD4 T-lymphocytes express this
surface receptor, making them vulnerable to HIV's attack.
Researchers concluded that herpesvirus-6 cells can exacerbate
the affects of HIV.