Scientists from Calypte Biomedical, a research and developmentcompany in Berkeley, Calif., reported they may have uncovered alink between human endogenous retroviruses (HERV) and AIDS.

Howard Urnovitz, founder and chief scientist of Calypte, said thecompany's research showed HERV antibodies were detected in eightof eight AIDS patients tested, but were not present in 18 people whohad HIV without AIDS symptoms. Also, he said, three of the 18 whotested negative for the HERV antibodies were long-term HIV-positive survivors.

Urnovitz presented the findings last week at the American Society ofMicrobiology conference in Washington.

He said HERV antibodies are believed to appear when the body'scell-mediated immune system fails. The shut-down of the immunesystem is considered the point at which HIV progresses to AIDS.

Calypte's preliminary research, Urnovitz said, indicates that thepresence of HERV antibodies may signal the progression of thedisease and that HERVs may act as "co-factors."

In addition, Urnovitz said, testing for HERV antibodies may be amore effective method for detecting HIV than current diagnostictechniques, which look for HIV antibodies.

Calypte's researchers evaluated eight healthy people whose tests forHIV antibodies were "indeterminate" and found their bloodcontained HERV antibodies.

Urnovitz said HERVs occur naturally and have been studied sincethe 1970s, but their relationship to diseases is not understood. Hesaid HERVs, however, may play a part in autoimmune andneurological disorders and the retroviruses may be activated fromtheir normally benign state by other viruses. _ Charles Craig

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.