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Annual Meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association

The mystery of HIV elite controllers, a vaccine against C. difficile, blood transfusion and infection, and contaminated public surfaces

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3:43pm, October 24, 2011

An HIV mystery
Less than 1 percent of HIV patients have the uncanny ability to suppress the virus for years, earning them the name “elite controllers” because they rarely develop AIDS. But researchers now report that some of these people have a chink in their immune defenses after all. In most HIV patients, the virus depletes essential immune cells called CD4 T cells. Elite controllers continually rebuild supplies of these cells. But sometimes their ability to restock these cells fails, and they develop AIDS as their CD4 T cell numbers plummet. For reasons that aren’t clear, these people get sick despite the fact that the rest of their immune systems continue to suppress HIV to practically undetectable levels, reported physician Mathias Lichterfeld of Harvard Medical School.  This raises a clinical problem because HIV drugs work by knocking down virus replication — which is already suppressed in elite controllers. Thus, the drugs

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