Human Immunodeficiency Virus HIV

General characteristics

From the moment that HIV enters the body, it begins to proliferate continuously. According to ABBREVIATIONFINDER.ORG, HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

At least three evolutionary phases of the infection could be distinguished:

  1. initial, early or acute phase;
  2. intermediate or chronic phase and
  3. final phase, crisis or AIDS.

The destruction of CD4 lymphocytes will produce a severe immunosuppression that favors the appearance of most of the opportunistic infections and neoplasms characteristic of AIDS. Antiretroviral therapy and opportunistic infection prophylaxis have modified the course of AIDS. Therefore, it is possible that we do not know the evolution that HIV infection will follow for a few years.

Initial phase

Regardless of its transmission mechanism, the manifestations that appear after the penetration of HIV into the body may be related to the infecting dose, the virulence of the HIV strain and the response capacity of the infected subject.

HIV spreads and invades many tissues, especially lymphoid tissue and lymph nodes. The infected patient may or may not present symptoms; usually there is a picture of mononucleosis syndrome that is not usually given much attention.

At 2-6 weeks after infection, HIV antigen (p24 antigen) is detected, the viral culture becomes positive and there are many infected CD4 lymphocytes; circulating antibodies gradually appear (4-12 weeks) and cellular immunity and the p24 antigen disappear and infected cells descend. During this period, there may be a temporary immunosuppression that can facilitate the appearance or reactivation of some opportunistic infections.

Chronic phase

This phase has a variable duration estimated in several years and in it viral proliferation persists, although at a low level. It is estimated that 1 in 10,000 circulating CD4 lymphocytes would be infected, but only in 10% of them would there be viral replication.

Patients are usually asymptomatic, with or without lymphadenopathy, low platelet counts, and minimal neurological disorders revealed by electrophysiological tests.

Although there are wide individual variations, it is estimated that in 10 years 50% of adults and 80% of children will have evolved to more advanced stages, although the progression of the disease can be influenced by numerous factors

Final phase

It is characterized by an increase in HIV replication (which could occur in 1 in 10 CD4 lymphocytes) and clinically coincides with a profound alteration in the general state of the patient (wasting syndrome, wasting syndrome), the appearance of serious opportunistic infections, certain Neoplasms and neurological disorders, so that the HIV-infected person is said to have AIDS.

The prognosis is variable in terms of survival. Age, the contagion mechanism, the form of presentation seem to influence survival. Antiretroviral treatment has favored the prolongation of survival over time: Before them, survival was not greater than 30-50% at 2 years and less than 10-20% at 4 years.

Clinical manifestations in the acute phase

The main symptoms and signs are:

  • Fever and / or sweating, 97%
  • Adenopathies, 77%
  • Odynophagia (pain when swallowing), 73%
  • Skin rash, 70%
  • Arthralgias and myalgias (joint and muscle pain), 58%
  • Thrombopenia, 51%
  • Leukopenia, 38%
  • Diarrhea, 33%
  • Headache (headache), 30%
  • Elevated transaminases, 23%
  • Anorexia, nausea, or vomiting, 20%
  • Liver and / or splenomegaly (enlarged liver or spleen), 17%

Symptoms

It is not possible to reliably diagnose HIV infection or AIDS when only symptoms are considered. The only way to know for sure if a person is infected with HIV is to have an HIV test.

The HIV virus comes into contact with healthy tissues and replicates itself.

People living with HIV can feel and look completely fine. However, their immune systems may be damaged. It is important to remember that once someone is infected with HIV they can transmit the virus immediately, even if that person feels healthy.

HIV is the virus that causes the AIDS syndrome. If a person who is infected with HIV does not take effective antiretroviral treatment, HIV will weaken their immune system over time. Consequently, you will become more vulnerable to opportunistic infections.

Symptoms caused by opportunistic infections.

These infections are caused by germs that surround us all the time, but can normally be fought off by a healthy immune system.When the immune system is sufficiently weakened, such infections will develop and produce a wide variety of symptoms, some of which they can manifest with intensity. Some types of cancer can also become more common when the immune system is weakened.

Such symptoms, however, cannot be interpreted as definitive signs of HIV infection or AIDS. A diagnosis of AIDS requires signs that show a significant immune deficiency and whose appearance cannot be explained by any other factor except HIV. This usually requires an HIV test.

Symptoms after HIV infection. Some people who are infected with HIV do not notice any immediate change in their health. However, some develop short-term flu within a few weeks of becoming infected or develop rashes and swollen glands. These symptoms do not indicate the development of AIDS and generally disappear within a few days or weeks.

Typical symptoms

I have the typical flu symptoms, my glands have swollen, could it be HIV? Many illnesses have the symptoms of the flu or cause swollen glands. You cannot get HIV unless you have been directly exposed to the virus.

HIV can be transmitted during sex with an infected person, through contact with infected blood or breast milk, or during injections or unsafe medical procedures. If you are not sure if the above applies to your situation, read our page on how you can or cannot get infected with the HIV virus. The only way to know whether or not you are infected with HIV is through a test for this virus.

Medicines to treat infection

The different types of medicines are often used together (in combination) to lower the amount of HIV in your body. When different drugs are combined to lower the amount of HIV in your blood to very low levels, the resulting treatment regimen is called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).

Your doctor should monitor you very carefully while you are being treated with these medications to see how efficient they are at lowering the amount of virus in your body. Your doctor also wants to make sure that you are not having side effects such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, anemia, or peripheral neuropathy (a feeling of numbness in your hands or feet).

There are four types of drugs used to fight HIV infection.

1) Nucleoside Analog Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors

The first type is called inhibitors analogous nucleosides of transcriptase reverse, which in the United States are known colloquially as nukes -. When HIV infects a healthy cell, it needs the cell’s DNA or genetic instructions in order to assemble copies of itself. These drugs work by blocking HIV’s ability to copy a cell’s DNA. Without complete DNA, HIV cannot assemble new viral copies. These medications include the following:

Complete life cycle of the HIV virus.

  • zidovudine, also known as AZT (brand name: Retrovir).
  • didanosine, also known as ddl (brand name: Videx).
  • zalcitabine, also known as ddC (brand name: Hivid).
  • Lamivudine, also known as 3TC (brand name: Epivir).
  • stavudine, also known as d4T (brand name: Zerit).
  • abacavir, also known as ABC (brand name: Ziagen).

2) Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors

The second type of drug is called non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors. These drugs also prevent HIV from using the DNA of a healthy cell to make copies of itself, but in a slightly different way. This group includes the following drugs:

  • delavirdine (brand name: Rescriptor).
  • nevirapine (brand name: Viramune).
  • efivarenz, also known as EFV (brand name: Sustiva).

3) Protease inhibitors

The third type of medicine is called protease inhibitors. These drugs work by preventing infected cells from releasing HIV into the body. This group includes the following drugs:

  • saquinavir (brand name: Invirase).
  • indinavir (brand name: Crixivan).
  • nelfinavir (brand name: Viracept).
  • ritnonavir (brand name: Norvir).
  • amprenavir (brand name: Agenerase).

4) Fusion inhibitors

The fourth type of medicine is called a fusion inhibitor.

  • enfivirtide (brand name: Fuzeon).

This medicine works by preventing the HIV virus from getting into healthy cells in your body. This medicine is injected by a doctor.

Discovery of a gene that blocks HIV

A team of researchers at the University of Alberta discovered a gene that can block HIV, and, in turn, prevent the onset of AIDS. The gene in question has been called TRIM22 and can block HIV infection.

When we put this gene into cells, it prevents the assembly of the HIV viruses. This means that the virus cannot leave cells to infect other cells, thus blocking the spread of the virus.

Stephen Barr, molecular virologist in charge of the investigation

Barr and his team also prevented the cells from turning into TRIM22, causing an interesting phenomenon: the normal response of interferon, a protein that coordinates attacks against viral infections and made blocking HIV infection useless. This means that TRIM22 is an essential part of our body’s ability to fight HIV. The results are very interesting because they show that our bodies have a gene that is capable of stopping the spread of HIV. In this way, the function of current antiretroviral drugs is achieved in a natural way and thus, the appearance of new strains resistant to HIV drugs would no longer be a problem, since our body would naturally be in charge of blocking this new strain.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus HIV