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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Herpesvirus Decimates Immune-cell Soldiers

April 14, 1993
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.