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Lancet. 2000 Aug 5;356(9228):475-9.

HIV-1 suppression during acute scrub-typhus infection.

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Retrovirology Department, USAMC, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangkok, Thailand.



In HIV-1-infected individuals, viral load has been reported to rise transiently if an acute infection with another organism occurs. Our study was prompted by the unexpected finding that HIV-1 copy number fell during an acute infection with Orientia tsutsugamushi, the causative agent of scrub typhus.


Serial HIV-1 viral load determinations were made in ten Thai adults with scrub typhus, who were not receiving antiretroviral therapy, and in five HIV-1-infected patients who had other infections (four malaria, one leptospirosis), during and after acute infections. Sera from HIV-1-infected patients with scrub typhus and from mice immunised with O. tsutsugamushi were examined for HIV-1-suppressive activity.


Median viral load 3 days after admission was significantly lower in the scrub-typhus group than in patients with other infections (193% vs 376% of day 28 values, p=0.03). In four O. tsutsugamushi-infected patients HIV-1 RNA copy number fell by three-fold or more compared with day 28 values, and HIV-1 copy numbers were below the assay threshold in two patients with scrub typhus. Five of seven HIV-1 isolates from non-typhus patients with CD4 lymphocytes less than 200 cells/microL were syncytia-inducing variants, whereas all ten isolates from O. tsutsugamushi-infected individuals matched by CD4-cell count were non-syncytia inducing (p=0.03). Sera from an HIV-1-negative patient with scrub typhus had potent HIV-1-suppressive activity in vitro. Sera from typhus-infected mice inhibited HIV-1 syncytia formation and bound by immunofluorescence to HIV-1-infected lymphocytes.


HIV-1-suppressive factors are produced during some scrub-typhus infection and should be investigated further in the search for novel strategies for the treatment and prevention of AIDS.

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