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human immunodeficiency virus, either of two closely related retrovirusesretrovirus,
type of RNA virus that, unlike other RNA viruses, reproduces by transcribing itself into DNA. An enzyme called reverse transcriptase allows a retrovirus's RNA to act as the template for this RNA-to-DNA transcription.
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 that invade T-helper lymphocytes and are responsible for AIDSAIDS
or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome,
fatal disease caused by a rapidly mutating retrovirus that attacks the immune system and leaves the victim vulnerable to infections, malignancies, and neurological disorders. It was first recognized as a disease in 1981.
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. There are two types of HIV: HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is responsible for the vast majority of AIDS in the United States. HIV-2, seen more often in western Africa, has a slower course than HIV-1. There are many strains of both types and the virus mutates rapidly, a trait that has made it especially difficult for researchers to find an effective treatment or vaccine. In many cases, a person's immune system will fight off the invasion of HIV for many years, producing billions of CD4 cells daily, always trying to keep up with the HIV's mutations, before it succumbs and permits the well-known signs of AIDS to develop.

HIV is especially lethal because it attacks the very immune system cells (variously called T4, CD4, or T-helper lymphocytes) that would ordinarily fight off such a viral infection. Receptors on these cells appear to enable the viral RNA to enter the cell. As with all retroviruses, once the RNA is inside the cell, an enzyme called reverse transcriptase allows it to act as the template for its own RNA to DNA transcription. The resultant viral DNA inserts itself into a cell's DNA and is reproduced along with the cell and its daughters. In 2012 the Food and Drug Administration approved a pill that combines two antiretroviral drugs, tenofovir and emtricitabine, for use in preventing infection with HIV, and two years later the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for the drug combination to be prescribed to uninfected patients who are at risk for AIDS in an effort to reduce number of new HIV infections.

The exact origin of the virus in humans is unclear. Scientists surmise that HIV-1 jumped from African chimpanzees, who harbor a similar strain of SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus), to humans via the butchering of meat or an animal bite. The first case documented in humans dates from 1959, but genetic analysis published in 2008 estimated that it originated some time between 1884 and 1924. A 2014 analysis suggested that the most widespread form of HIV-1 in humans originated in 1920s in what was then the Belgian Congo. AIDS is believed to have spread to the Caribbean in the 1960s and the United States in the early 1970s. The virus was isolated by Luc MontagnierMontagnier, Luc Antoine,
1932–, French virologist, M.D. Sorbonne, 1960. Montagnier was a researcher at the Medical Research Council at Carshalton, London (1960–63), the Institute of Virology in Glasgow, Scotland (1963–65), and the Curie Institute in Orsay,
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 of France's Pasteur Institute in 1983. It went through several name changes before the official name, human immunodeficiency virus, was agreed upon.

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McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
This schedule would expose patients to several pulses of HIV antigen, and presumably jolt the immune system into responding.
Klausner, MD, MPH Table 1: Select HIV tests and characteristics Target Molecule / Name Format Sample Comments HIV antigen assay for serum and plasma Abbott HIVAG-1 EIA Serum/Plasma monoclonal Coulter HIV-1 EIA Serum/Plasma HIV-1 p24 antigen p24 Ag assay HIV Antibody Detection in Serum or Plasma a.
In addition to these HIV antigens, each strip has control lines: one sample addition line (3+) containing anti-human immunoglobulin (Ig) and two test performance lines (1+ and +/-) containing human IgG.
ADARC researchers have reported transient antibody responses to HIV antigens in patients treated within 90 days of PHI who were given vaccine (intramuscular injection) at 0, 30, 90, and 180 days.
False negative results in enzyme linked immunosorbent assays using synthetic HIV antigens. J Clin Pathol 1995;48:490-3.
DNA polymerase chain testing for the presence of HIV antigens, although currently experimental, may allow more accurate and early diagnosis of HIV in infants.
Scientists hope to test a variety of STLV-III(MAC) antigens as potential vaccines in macaques, and then --by referring to the newly created nucleotide map--test analogous HIV antigens in humans.
The test is designed for the early detection of HIV, and identifies HIV antigens and HIV antibodies.
Specimens containing HIV antibodies form immune complexes through the interaction between antiHIV in the specimen and HIV antigens coated on the microwell.
HUFF: Researchers are now looking at CD4 [T cell] response to HIV antigens using certain blood assays that can [measure] such responses.
has got approval from US FDA for its BioPlex 2200 HIV Ag-Ab assay, which is used for HIV antigens and HIV antibodies.