A Project of the New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center. Partially funded by the National Library of Medicine
Fact Sheets can be downloaded from the Internet at http://www.aidsinfonet.org
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Fact Sheet Number 482
WHAT IS INTERLEUKIN-2?
Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a protein made by
the body. T-helper cells, a kind of white
blood cell, produce IL-2 when they are
stimulated by an infection. IL-2 makes
mature. Patients who use IL-2 have large
increases in their CD4 cell counts. IL-2 is
called an immune modulator.
Interleukin-2 has been approved by the
FDA to treat some types of cancer, but
has not yet been approved for HIV
disease. Health care providers can use it
“off label” in patients with HIV (see Fact
manufacture IL-2. Their version is called
WHO SHOULD TAKE IL-2?
IL-2 stimulates the immune system and
increases the number of CD4+ cells.
People who start with higher CD4 cell
counts get larger CD4 cell increases.
Scientists do not agree on the value of the
new CD4 cells generated by IL-2. That is,
a CD4 cell count of 700 after IL-2 therapy
might not be as good as a count of 700
before IL-2 therapy. The difference has to
do with how many different types of CD4
cells you have.
Before HIV disease attacks your immune
system, you have millions of different
types of CD4 cells. An easier way to think
about them is like the letters of the
alphabet. Each letter is programmed to
respond to one particular type of infection.
With a healthy immune system, you have
many copies of each letter. As your CD4
cell count goes down, you have fewer
copies of each letter, and you might run
out of some letters.
Let’s say that you need to spell the word
“zebra” in order to fight pneumonia. If you
lose all your copies of the letter “z,” you
can’t spell zebra and you might deve