Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an enveloped single stranded virus that is a member of the genus Lentivirus in the family Retroviridae. Two types of HIV are recognised: HIV-type 1, which is responsible for most HIV infections globally and HIV-type 2, which is restricted to some regions of Africa. In 2016, it was estimated that 36.7 million people worldwide were living with HIV infection (UNAIDS factsheet).

Human Immunodeficiency Virus is transmitted from person-to-person through contact with contaminated blood, seminal fluid, vaginal secretions, rectal fluids and breast milk. HIV particles can be detected in the blood 10-12 days after infection. Characteristics of HIV infection vary and may include flu-like symptoms, fever, arthralgia, lymphadenopathy, pharyngitis, weight loss and general malaise. An asymptomatic phase follows the acute phase of HIV infection. During this phase, the effects of HIV infection continue resulting in a decrease in CD4+ T-cell populations and impairment of the immune system. Seroconversion is estimated to occur between 3- 5 weeks after infection. (Fanales-Belasio, E. et al).

HIV targets cells of the hosts immune system including circulating host T-cells, precursor T-cells in the bone marrow and thymus, dendritic cells, macrophages and monocytes, eosinophils and microglia cells in the central nervous system. The HIV gp120 envelope glycoprotein enables the virus to enter host target cells by interacting with CD4, a cell surface glycoprotein. Chemokine receptors have also been identified, primarily CXCR4 and CCR5, which act as co-receptors for viral entry (Wilen, C.B. et al).

In the absence of treatment, HIV infection can progress further resulting in a decrease in T-cell numbers and development of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).  AIDS renders the individual susceptible to opportunistic infections including Microcystis carinii, Candida albicans, Cytomegalovirus and Herpes zoster, which are life-threatening in these patients. (Fanales-Belasio, E. et al). Effective antiretroviral therapy (ART) is widely available for the treatment of HIV infection. In 2016, approximately 19.5 million people worldwide are reported to be receiving ART resulting in significant reductions in death rates in both children and adults (UNAIDS factsheet).

The Native Antigen Company offer a number of recombinant HIV proteins which may be used for basic research, and in the development of immunoassays for the detection of HIV infection.


  1. UNAIDS factsheet
  2. Fanales-Belasio, E. et al (2010). HIV virology and pathogenetic mechanisms of infection: a brief overview. Ann Ist Super Sanita.46:5-14.
  3. Wilen, C.B. et al (2012). HIV: Cell Binding and Entry. Cold Spring Harb. Perspect. Med.  2:a006866

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