HIV infection ages the brain prematurely

January 23rd, 2010 - 6:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 23 (IANS) HIV cuts down the blood supply to brain, prematurely ageing it in an infected patient - a condition seen in normal patients 15 to 20 years older.
“The greying of the AIDS patient community makes this infection’s effects on the brain a significant source of concern,” Beau Ances, an assistant professor of neurology at Washington University, said.

Prior studies of HIV infection’s long-term health effects have found the virus may adversely affect the heart, liver, endocrine system, skeleton and kidney.

A recent study of the overall health of the body found that HIV infection advances the body’s age by about 10 years.

HIV can lead to dementia in some patients, but quantifying the effects of HIV and ageing in the brain has been challenging.

“Patients are surviving into their senior years, and a number of them are coming forward to express concerns about problems they’re having with memory and other cognitive functions,” Ances said.

Epidemiologists estimate that 14 percent to 18 percent of all AIDS patients in the US are over 50 years old.

This age group also has one of the highest rates of new infection. If current trends continue, by the year 2015, their number will grow to more than 50 percent of the overall patient population, says a Washington University release.

“We believe the virus crosses into the brain using infected immune cells,” Ances said. “Once in the brain, HIV doesn’t directly infect neurons but instead affects supporting cells that can release immune factors that harm neurons.”

The report appeared online in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

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