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HIV life cycle, and how HIV affects the immune system

Aug 31, 1998

Hi Rick, When Hiv attaches itself to a lymphocyte, is the lymphocyte actually a gland as in the neck or armpit, and does this then become a reproduction factory for HIV with an abundance of T-cells coming from the gland? Thank you for your time.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question. HIV infects cells of the immune system called CD4 cells. There are many CD4 cells inside the lymph nodes. These cells can also be found all throughout the body.

When HIV enters a CD4 cell, the cell itself becomes a virus factory. During this process, one virus enters the cell, the virus then reproduces, and finally, many copies of the virus leave the cell. This viral replication process ends up killing the host CD4 cell, which ultimately leads to damage to the immune system.

To gain a better understanding of how HIV reproduces itself inside CD4 cells, and to gain a better understanding of how HIV affects the immune system, read through the following webpages:

What exactly is the definition of AIDS? For a good review of how HIV affects the immune system, including a review of how we are currently treating HIV, read the article, Improving HIV Therapy, found in the July 1998 issue of Scientific American Magazine. Another good place to see how HIV reproduces itself inside a CD4 cell, as well some information about how the immune system works, is to visit the Cells Alive website.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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