The common scientific wisdom on how HIV infection proceeds to full-blown Aids might be wrong, two U.S. researchers say.
Questions current notions
"This throws into question a lot of the notions that have been accepted about the evolution of the virus" within a typical infected human, explained study co-author Dominik Wodarz, associate professor of biology at the University of California, Irvine.
He and another researcher, David Levy, of New York University, published their findings in the July 31 issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society.
Less fit strain is key
What the two scientists found surprised them. According to the new model, Aids actually begins when a less fit variety of HIV wins the day. This strain kills immune system cells extremely widely and quickly, but, in doing so, also limits the number of copies of itself it can produce. "It basically kills its own habitat, its house," Wodarz explained.
Only let one strain in
That means that - according to the model - one way of keeping Aids at bay might be to make sure that only one type of HIV invades a cell at any given time.
New model unconvincing
Not everyone is convinced by the new model, however.
Lab tests needed
The bottom line, according to the Cleveland expert: As with any mathematical model, this one needs to be tested out in the laboratory.