Being Alive 1992 Apr 5: 2
As we have discussed in the past, a major cofactor in the progression
to AIDS may be the specific strain or strains of HIV that a person is
harboring. Although systematic studies have yet to be done, we do know
that there are dozens of strains and that these strains change over
Now a Dutch group has published a study in the Journal of Infectious
Diseases that looks at specific isolates of HIV. Researchers isolated
what they termed syncytia-inducing (SI) strains and compared these to
non syncytia-inducing (NSI) strains. We have known for some time that
certain types of HIV are able to kill T-cells more quickly by joining
a number of T-cells together and forming a giant, multi-nucleated
cell. These giant cells are called syncytia and their presence is
associated with a more rapid progression to AIDS. The viral cells that
have the ability to fuse T-cells are what the Dutch researchers call
syncytia-inducing or SI.
In the study, nineteen people were examined early in the course of
their HIV infection. Sixteen were found to harbor the NSI strain.
Researchers then followed this group over time. Nine of the original
nineteen were found to have a rapid progression to serious disease.
All were found to have SI isolates.
This study confirms what we have been saying. Viral strains change
over time and the strain that a person is harboring can help predict
the course of their HIV disease.