Volume 93, Issue 55

Tuesday, December 7, 1999


McMaster TAs hit the picket lines

HIV virus linked to smallpox

Remembering the Montreal Massacre

Staff prepares for Y2K problems on campus

Nipissing helps keep faculty and staff standing tall

Streaker still strutting his stuff

HIV virus linked to smallpox

By Stephanie Cesca
Gazette Staff

The prestigious scientific journal Science published a breakthrough in AIDS research on Friday, as scientists at Western have taken a step forward to combat the spread of the HIV virus.

According to Grant McFadden, a microbiology and immunology professor at Western and senior author of the study, a new link has been discovered between HIV and the myxoma virus, which is a relative of smallpox.

McFadden said he and a team of researchers discovered the myxoma virus infects human immune cells using the same receptors as the HIV virus. "This provides a new biological window to study these receptors."

McFadden added some people are immune to the HIV virus, which explains why they can be exposed to the virus and yet do not become HIV positive. The findings of the research suggest this immunity was developed years ago and is actually linked to a genetic mutation of the receptor for the myxoma virus.

McFadden said genetic resistance to a virus is the product of remnants of a past disease which has affected a person's genes.

"The objective, ultimately, of this is the development of a vaccine," said Douglass Drozdow-St. Christian, an anthropology professor at Western.

"Once [viruses are] introduced in the blood, we know there's a substantial number of people who are never affected. So it's entirely possible that you could produce [certain] cells that are immune to the virus."

This study may lead to the possibility of triggering the development of the mutated receptors, which would lead to preventing the HIV infection via the receptors, he explained.

"Every breakthrough leading to more information about HIV/AIDS is an important one and we hope this new link will help develop a better method of combating the spread of HIV," said Alain Houde, manager of national programs of the Canadian AIDS Society. "But until we have a cure or HIV/AIDS is eliminated, we have to stay on target in preventing the spread of HIV through education and prevention initiatives."

Houde added society must focus on quality and compassionate care for those who are already infected by HIV or AIDS and those who close to people affected by the disease.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999