Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) induces a chronic generalized activation of the immune system, which plays an important role in the pathogenesis of AIDS. This ability of the virus might either be an evolved (adaptive) trait or a coincidental side effect of jumping to a new host species. We argue that selection favours the ability of HIV to induce immune activation at the local sites of infection (e.g. lymph follicles) but not at the systemic level. Immune activation increases the supply of susceptible target cells; however, mutations that increase systemic immune activation benefit all virus variants equally and are therefore selectively neutral. We thus conclude that the generalized immune activation that is probably responsible for pathogenesis is probably not directly under selection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy