This is the VOA Special English Science Report.
A harmless virus carried by millions of people around the world may slow the progress of H-I-V, the virus that causes the disease AIDS. Studies show that people infected with both viruses live longer than people infected with H-I-V alone. Experts say the discovery might lead to new treatments for AIDS.
The virus was discovered in Nineteen-Ninety-Five. It was called hepatitis G. However, experts say it does not appear to cause hepatitis or any other disease. So researchers call this apparently harmless virus by the new name, G-B-C virus, or G-B-V-C.
G-B-V-C is passed to other people by blood and through sexual activity. It is found in people with H-I-V, people who use needles to inject drugs and the general population.
Researchers say G-B-V-C seems to reduce damage to the defense system of people with H-I-V. The virus also appears to improve the effects of AIDS drugs. And it appears to help people with AIDS live longer.
However, they are not sure how the virus works. They say the G-B-C virus may prevent H-I-V from reproducing. It may strengthen the body’s defense system to fight H-I-V more effectively. Or the virus may be found more often in people with H-I-V who survive longer for some other reason.
The findings were reported in two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine. In one study, researchers in the state of Iowa studied the blood of more than three-hundred-fifty people with H-I-V. About forty-percent of the people were also infected with G-B-V-C. Those infected with H-I-V alone were almost four times more likely to die during the four-year observation period than those with both infections.
The second study involved almost two-hundred people with H-I-V. It was carried out at a medical school in Hanover, Germany. It also found much higher survival rates among people with both H-I-V and the G-B-C virus. The researchers also discovered that people who had more G-B-V-C in their blood also had less H-I-V in their blood.
However, experts say reasons other than the G-B-C virus might explain why people with both viruses live longer. They say there could be genetic reasons or other disease-causing agents involved. Experts say that the G-B-C virus should not be used as a treatment for H-I-V or AIDS until more is known about it.
This VOA Special English Science Report was written by Cynthia Kirk.