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HIV can damage the brain

Macaques infected with a virus similar to HIV can develop symptoms linked to brain diseases, researchers in the Netherlands have found.

A study, led by EARA member the Biomedical Primate Research Centre, and with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, US, studied the brain tissue of humans with HIV, as well as healthy macaques and those with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), which is closely related to HIV and infects non-human primates.

The researchers saw that some of the infected macaques showed neurological symptoms, and discovered that these effects were not only associated with more of the virus in the brain, but also bacterial molecules which are normally excluded in a healthy brain.

These bacterial molecules may activate key immune cells in the brain that increase inflammation, thereby driving brain diseases.

HIV works by damaging the immune system and can lead to AIDS, which is potentially life-threatening. Although the virus can be suppressed with drugs, there is still no cure and medications can cause health complications, such as the development of diabetes at a younger age.

World AIDS Day takes place this Thursday.


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