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What is HIV Pathogenesis?

S. Zaimov
S. Zaimov

HIV pathogenesis is the progression of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in a patient’s body. The term describes the initial stage of the virus and the long-term effects it has on cell and organ functions. HIV infections vary in patients and may be identified through different symptoms.

Researchers following a HIV pathogenesis usually begin by identifying how the virus was transmitted. Some HIV-infected mothers transmit the disease to their children during pregnancy or by breast feeding. Many people become infected with the disease through sexual contact with other HIV patients, who may be unaware they carry the illness. Sharing blood, through transfusions or unsterilized needles, also poses a very high risk.

HIV positive mothers can pass the virus to their child via breast feeding.
HIV positive mothers can pass the virus to their child via breast feeding.

Tracing HIV pathogenesis examines the chain of events that takes place after the HIV infection gets inside the body. The virus quickly attacks white blood cells, which help fight and contain infections. The disease gradually weakens the entire immune system of the body until it is unable to stop the virus. Once that happens, the virus and other harmful microbes begin multiplying and spreading throughout the body.

The protective immune system cells can be destroyed in different ways. They can be attacked directly by virus cells, or they can be damaged through a process called syncytia. Syncytia causes infected cells to fuse with healthy ones, forming large bloated cells and destroying them in the process. Cells can also be harmed through apoptosis, which is a process that sends false signals to the immune cells and causes them to self-destruct.

The spread of HIV usually reaches spinal fluids and those around the brain. Some patients do not feel the effects of the virus at this stage. Others, however, begin suffering from flu-like symptoms, such as fever, swelling and headaches. Often these symptoms last only a few weeks before disappearing, which can lead the person to believe he or she is healthy. This false recovery can allow the disease to go unnoticed for a prolonged period of time, even years, until it reappears.

The re-emergence of the HIV virus sometimes leads to a more serious condition called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). This illness can complicate other diseases and cause deadly tumors and lesions. Fatal in many patients, AIDS has become a pandemic that has killed millions of people worldwide. Generally, one the best ways of fighting AIDS, and prolonging life for someone with the disease, is to monitor the patient's HIV pathogenesis and treat the infection when it first appears.

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    • HIV positive mothers can pass the virus to their child via breast feeding.
      By: drubig-photo
      HIV positive mothers can pass the virus to their child via breast feeding.