Level of Th17 cells found crucial for controlling HIV
For research purposes, the monkeys were infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), which is a retrovirus that only infects primates. SIV strains that transferred over to humans turned into strains of HIV. Since HIV evolved from SIV, studying the effect of SIV in monkeys can give insight on the effect of HIV in humans.
After infection, by studying Th17 (T helper 17) cells - which are found in the gut of primates and humans and are cells of the immune system that help fight disease - in the animal model, scientists could see how efficiently the body fights and manages SIV. It was concluded that with more Th17 cells, SIV can be better controlled and the immune system will be more effective.
This discovery can shed light on why some people diagnosed with HIV are able to control their disease better than others.
"If a treatment can be developed to increase Th17 cells in the gut, it may allow for a more effective immune response after exposure to an HIV vaccine or the virus itself," said Dennis Hartigan-O'Connor, the study's primary investigator.