When HIV infects macrophages, it doesn't kill or destroy them immediately, but once it infects T-cells, they're destroyed. Why is that? As in why does it destroy T-cells and not macrophages or other cells.

This process does not destroy the macrophages. Unlike macrophages, helper T cells are destroyed.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think HIV can destroy macrophages, since just by virtue of the infected cell accumulating the virons and the cell lysing due to so much accumulation no? Is this not one of the ways the virus spreads throughout the body? $\endgroup$
    – Ro Siv
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ No, it doesn't destroy macrophages, or so my book says. It does destroy T-cells though ; @RoSiv $\endgroup$
    – Al-
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 11:49
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Can you provide a quotation from (or better, photo of) the book so we can understand the context? As written, this question is rather unclear. $\endgroup$
    – March Ho
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 7:28
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ PLEASE DO NOT POST TEXT AS IMAGES. Copy and paste the text into your question. Images are not searchable, and can not be interpreted by screen readers for those with visual impairments. Use the edit link to modify your question. $\endgroup$
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 9:13

1 Answer 1


From this article:

Researchers found that when the virus productively infects the few permissive CD4 T cells present, death occurs through apoptosis mediated by an enzyme called caspase-3. But when HIV abortively infects nonpermissive CD4 T cells, death occurs by pyroptosis, which depends on the activation of caspase-1. It turns out that the vast majority—roughly 95 percent—of CD4 T cell death in lymphoid tissues is driven by caspase-1-mediated pyroptosis.

When it comes to macrophages, however:

macrophages are much more resistant to cytopathic effects of lentiviral replication than for example activated CD4+ T cells [23, 24, 25], and HIV-1 has evolved sophisticated mechanisms to prolong the life span of infected macrophages [24, 26]. Especially long-lived macrophages may therefore harbor the virus for long time periods, thus constituting HIV-1 reservoirs and posing a major obstacle to virus eradication from infected individuals.



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