Itâ€™s a knotty, complex question, and one thatâ€™s nearly 30 years old: how does HIV cause AIDS? That is, how does the virus slowly destroy the immune system?
Emory immunologist and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar Guido Silvestri, MD, and his colleagues are using a method called comparative AIDS research to try and answer that question. In other words, the scientists compare humans infected with HIV who develop AIDS and nonhuman primates from Africa who are infected with SIV, or simian immunodeficiency virus.
Silvestri is chief of the Division of Microbiology and Immunology at Yerkes National Primate Research Center.
Although SIV is very similar to HIV in terms of genetic and molecular structure, once infected with this virus, the Old World Monkey, the sooty mangabey, does not get sick.
â€œItâ€™s a major mystery in AIDS research because these animals have virus replication that remains active in their body as long as theyâ€™re alive,â€ says Silvestri. â€œSo, itâ€™s not just the infection and the virus replicating that kills people. Thereâ€™s something more that happens.â€
Silvestri describes this research in Emory Universityâ€™s Sound Science.