New research shows one virus could help fight another. Researchers say the little-known virus GBV-C, also known as hepatitis G , may hold a key to helping researchers devise new strategies against HIV.
Researchers analyzed results from the Multicenter Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome Cohort Study, in which investigators followed a large group of HIV-infected men in the United States for more than 15 years. The study shows patients infected with the two viruses actually do better than those infected with only HIV. GBV-C was significantly associated with prolonged survival among HIV-positive men five years to six years after HIV seroconversion. The survival rate for those who had the GBV-C virus was 75 percent compared to 39 percent of patients who consistently tested negative for that virus and 16 percent for those with clearance of GBV-C. However, researchers did not observe this link when patients were examined 12 months to 18 months after HIV seroconversion. Seroconversion is the time after a person is infected with an infectious organism (such as a virus) but before enough antibodies have developed that they can be detected by a test.The risk of death in patients without GBV-C was nearly three times that of men with the virus at five years to six years after seroconversion.
Previous studies show HIV-infected people with the GBV-C virus had lower death rates, higher baseline T-cell counts, a slower rate of decline in the number of T-cells and lower HIV RNA levels in the blood than HIV-positive people who did not have the GBV-C virus. GBV-C is frequently found in people infected with HIV or hepatitis C. No disease has been associated with hepatitis G alone.