Hepatitis-Like Virus Extends HIV Patients’ Lives
Two independent studies appearing in today's New England Journal of Medicine show that people with HIV who are co-infected with GB virus C (GBV-C) -- a virus related to hepatitis C but not known to have any clinical manifestations -- have significantly lower mortality rates than those infected with HIV alone. In the first study, researchers at the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Iowa College of Medicine tested 362 HIV patients for GBV-C viremia between 1998 and 2000, with 144 patients (39.8%) testing positive. Patients were followed for an average of 4.1 years, during which 41 (28.5%) of those with GBV-C viremia died, compared to 123 (56.4%) who were not infected with the virus. The researchers also found that GBV-C slowed HIV replication in cells infected with both viruses (Xiang et al., NEJM, 9/6). In the second study, researchers from the Department of Clinical Immunology at the Medizinische Hochschule in Hannover, Germany, tested 197 HIV-positive patients for GBV-C in 1993 and 1994 and found that 33 (16.8%) tested positive for GBV-C RNA and 112 (56.9%) had detectable antibodies for GBV-C. The remaining 52 (26.4%) had not been exposed to the virus. In 1996, 98 of the initial 197 patients were alive, and by March 2000, 74 of the patients were still alive. Those infected with GBV-C had a "significantly longer" duration of survival from both the date of his or her first positive HIV test and from the date of GBV-C testing than those who tested positive for antibodies to GBV-C and those who had not been exposed to the virus at all, while those who just tested positive for antibodies also survived "significantly longer" than those in the unexposed group. Even with the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy, those coinfected with GBV-C maintained a "significantly better" survival rate (Tillman et al., NEJM, 9/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.