In ecology, “disease tolerance” is defined as an evolutionary strategy of hosts against pathogens, characterized by reduced or absent pathogenesis despite high pathogen load. To our knowledge, tolerance has to date not been quantified and disentangled from host resistance to disease in any clinically relevant human infection.
Using data from the Swiss HIV Cohort Study, we investigated if there is variation in tolerance to HIV in humans and if this variation is associated with polymorphisms in the human genome. In particular, we tested for associations between tolerance and alleles of the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) genes, the CC chemokine receptor 5 (CCR5), the age at which individuals were infected, and their sex.
We found that HLA-B alleles associated with better HIV control do not confer tolerance. The slower disease progression associated with these alleles can be fully attributed to the extent of viral load reduction in carriers.
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