At Risk: Measure of Calm May Help Fight AIDS
By ERIC NAGOURNEY from the NY TIMES
Stress, long thought to play a role in many diseases, appears to be an ally of the AIDS virus in its attack on the immune system, researchers said this week.
Writing in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles said it appeared that the virus multiplied more quickly in people who handled stress poorly.
The findings were based on a study of 13 H.I.V.-positive men whose stress levels were assessed before they were given drug therapy. Researchers gauged stress by measuring blood pressure, heart rate and skin moisture and then watched how they changed when the men were put through stress-inducing mental exercises.
In those who remained calmest, the levels of virus in the blood declined much more after beginning medication than they did in men who were the least calm. The calmer men also had much higher levels of T-cells, which fight the AIDS virus.
The lead author, Dr. Steve Cole, said it was possible that the hormone norepinephrine, released when a person is under stress, helped open the door for H.I.V., allowing it to bind more easily to cells and encouraging it to replicate more freely.