AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is an incurable disease that weakens the immune system. Sometimes AIDS completely cripples the immune system. It gets to the point that the most common infections, like a simple cold, become life-threatening.
In other words, AIDS is the consequence of infection with the HIV virus (human immunodeficiency virus).
Immune system disorders
Have you ever stopped to think why there are people who get sick more often? The key could be in your immune system. This system is in charge of discerning between what is one’s own and what is foreign and dealing with it. It is our source of defense against bacteria, viruses and even cancer.
The immune system is made up of a multitude of cell types ; some of them act as security guards and others are dedicated to patrolling our system in search of some foreign element (antigen) that must be eliminated.
In some people these defenses do not work properly, this is where immunopathology comes in. It is the science that studies abnormal processes and diseases that arise as a result of various failures in the mechanism of discrimination between the self and the non-self.
In autoimmune diseases the self is treated as the not self . That is, our immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues of our own body by mistake. A clear example of an autoimmune disease is lupus.
In immunodeficiencies, the non-self is treated as the self . That is, our defenses are not capable of acting against foreign bodies to eliminate them. Consequently, they have total freedom to roam through our body causing a multitude of damages.
Almost all immunodeficiencies are manifested by a set of characteristic symptoms or signs. All reveal that the individual’s immune system has its defense mechanisms depressed or absent. We can classify immunodeficiencies into two types:
- Congenital immunodeficiencies. This group includes all the defects of the immune system with which we are born: disorders in the development of immune cells, lack or absence of antibodies or alterations of the main weapons of the immune system such as complement or phagocytosis.
- Acquired immunodeficiencies. That is, disorders of the immune system that are acquired, attributable to the loss of antibodies or lymphocytes, by extrinsic causes: malnutrition, underlying diseases such as leukemias or lymphomas, treatment with immunosuppressive drugs or viral infections. It is the case of AIDS.
Virologists Luc Montagnier and Barré-Sinoussi were responsible for the discovery of HIV as the causative agent of this disease. This milestone took place in 1983 and earned them the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2008; However, more than 20 years later, there is still no effective vaccine against this virus or a cure for AIDS.
There are two types of human immunodeficiency virus, HIV-1 and HIV-2, which differ mainly by their genetic makeup.
HIV-2 is not pandemic and is much less pathogenic than HIV-1. Furthermore, infection with one of the viruses protects against infection with the other ; that is, if a person becomes infected with the HIV-2 virus, there is no risk that they will become infected with the HIV-1 virus.
Possible HIV vaccine
This has led scientists to think that one of the possible solutions to the AIDS problem could go hand in hand with the HIV-2 virus. By designing vaccines based on this virus, we would avoid becoming infected with the most pathogenic type of virus and, in this way, we would avoid contracting the disease.
However, as you may be thinking, this implies consciously infecting ourselves with another potentially dangerous virus, and it is. Therefore, this measure would be used only in those cases in which HIV-1 infection is highly probable. For example, in the case of people with drug addiction problems.