Kenyan Women More Biologically Susceptible To HIV Virus

April 19th 2011 – A new study suggests that Kenyan women are more biologically susceptible to the virus. To prove this theory, researchers compared CD4 cells from cervical cell samples of young women from Kisumu, Kenya with those of young women from San Francisco, California.

Researchers found something in those samples,  Find out more

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Kenyan Women More Biologically Susceptible To HIV

Virus

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Africa’s HIV epidemic may not be driven by behavior alone according to a new study suggesting that Kenyan women are more biologically susceptible to the virus.

The study compared CD4 cells [white blood cells that lead the immune system’s response to infections] from cervical cell samples of young women from Kisumu, Kenya with those of young women from San Francisco, California.

Researchers found that the samples from the Kenyan women had a much higher number of “activated” CD4 cells – normally dormant CD4 cells that have reacted to an infection in the body.

Previous studies have shown that a critical mass of these activated CD4 cells may be crucial in allowing the HIV virus to replicate locally before it can spread throughout the body. This is because HIV spreads by infecting CD4 cells which multiply to fight an infection.

The cervical samples from the Kenyan women also had lower levels of the innate proteins that can protect against HIV infection, and higher levels of CD4 cells with the receptors that allow HIV to attach and replicate.

Understanding the reasons for the differences was beyond the study’s scope, but the researchers posit that they may be the result of infections, such as malaria which are endemic to parts of Africa and cause activated CD4 cells to spike in parts of the body, including the reproductive tract.

Lead researchers cautioned against generalizing the results of the study to regions outside East Africa, but said if larger studies proved the theory about the role of endemic disease in HIV infection to be correct, it could revolutionize prevention efforts.

“Let’s say we found out that other infections, [like intestinal worms], increased people’s risk of HIV,” report analysis. “If that was the case, it would be a matter of rolling out public health measures [in sub-Saharan Africa] that were put in place in countries like the United States a hundred years ago.”

Researchers said the findings did not minimize the need to address known HIV risk factors, including multiple concurrent partners, transactional sex and gender inequality, which prevented women from negotiating safer sex.

Written by Anthony Aisi

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