Immunodeficiency viruses.

W F Ferreira, A S Pinto, E P Alvarez, R A Sousa


In the first part of this article some structural and biological aspects of the HIV viruses are presented, in our opinion among the most interesting ones, connected with the AIDS viruses. Viral infection and its evolution, particularly related with infection by HIV-2, will be presented later, in the light of our experience, obtained over several years work with African people infected by the virus. The AIDS viruses are complex retroviruses, with their own identity, but also with marked structural and biological resemblances to other retroviruses, equally pathogenical for animals. The lentivirinae subfamily to which the AIDS viruses belong includes other agents, usually classified according to the host they infect. In this way, the lentiviruses of the primates contain in the same group, besides those of HIV-1 and HIV-2, viruses that infect monkeys such as SIVMAC, SIVAGM, SIVSMM, etc. The comparative study of molecular genetics and biology of human and animal retroviruses in recent years has permitted significant progress in the understanding of the possible mechanisms that lead to the Immunodepressive Acquired Syndrome that characterizes AIDS. The presence of a gene that deactivates the activated lymphocytes only present in the lentiviruses of the primates, as well as the known tropism of those viruses to CD4 lymphocytes, and not found in the other groups, are biological aspects that are pointed out. We also refer to other characteristics of HIVs such as the cytolytic and sincicial capacity of these viruses in lymphocyte culture. Finally we present an analysis of what we were able to observe in individuals infected by HIV-2 in their own and African habitat.

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