HIV Ages Children’s Immune Systems Prematurely, Study Says
HIV-positive children's immune systems age faster than healthy children's, according to a study in the September issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Reuters Health reports. Researchers from the University of Modena in Italy studied the immune markers for apoptosis -- "the body's method for destroying abnormal cells" -- of 39 children who contracted HIV from their mothers and compared their findings with those from 36 healthy children. All blood samples from the HIV-positive children were collected before they began highly active antiretroviral therapy. Dr. Andrea Cossarizza and colleagues found that CD4+ and CD8+ T cell counts depleted as the infected children aged. CD28, an anti-apoptosis cell marker, was also more likely to be lacking in the T cells of the children with HIV. Conversely, expression of CD95+, a cell marker for apoptosis, which typically increases with age, was elevated in the infected children. The children with HIV also had decreased levels of B lymphocytes and increased numbers of "natural killer cells" compared to the healthy children. Additional analysis demonstrated that the children with HIV were more susceptible to apoptosis and damage to the mitochondria, further suggesting that their immune systems were aging at a faster-than-normal rate (Reuters Health, 9/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.