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Researcher finds possible incompatibility between MS, HIV


In exploring the lack of cases he had seen where a patient had both MS and HIV, an Australian doctor has found an apparently antithetical (mutually incompatible) relationship that may open the way to treatment for MS. In the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, Dr. Julian Gold of Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, Australia, reports that he sought cases where patients had both diseases. He and his fellow researchers found that those who had HIV and were being treated had a reduced likelihood of having MS.

The research team led by Gold surveyed data from the English Hospital Episode Statistics database. What they found were that the numbers of people who had both MS and HIV were lower than the expected results. They also discovered that those undergoing treatment for HIV were 60 percent less likely to develop MS, or 80 percent if they’d been undergoing HIV treatment for more than five years.

What remains unclear is if the decreased likelihood is because of the HIV or because of the treatments. As HIV affects the immune system, and it is the immune system that attacks the nervous system in MS, the researchers believe that it is plausible that HIV provides a protective effect. It is also possible that the treatment for HIV may be reducing the cases of MS as an unexpected effect, suppressing a possible viral origin for the disease. More research is needed to explore this interesting finding.

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