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For a change, infection stymies HIV

Infection with an obscure and apparently harmless virus can stall replication of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. It may also prolong the lives of people with HIV, according to two studies published in the Sept. 6 New England Journal of Medicine.

The potentially beneficial virus, dubbed GBV-C, is similar to a handful of other viruses that cause the liver disease hepatitis. However, GBV-C doesn't lead to any known illness.

A few studies had already indicated that GBV-C infection might slow HIV progression, says Jack T. Stapleton of the University of Iowa in Iowa City. So, he and his colleagues looked at stored blood samples from 362 people (mostly male and Caucasian) treated for HIV infection in Iowa City clinics between 1988 and 2000.

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