HIV Issues
How the Immune System Chases Quickly Mutating HIV: Implications for Vaccine Design
Mar 6, 2013 - 2:20:19 PM

( - ATLANTA--Most people infected with HIV have neutralizing antibodies: blood proteins produced by the immune system that would eliminate the virus, if it didn't wriggle away by quickly mutating.

Some infected individuals (20 to 30 percent) develop "broadly neutralizing antibodies," which can inactivate several varieties of HIV - not just the kind in that person. These antibodies stick to parts of HIV that don't mutate as much and are common to many viral varieties.

Even in this subgroup of infected patients, broadly neutralizing antibodies develop after a couple years of infection - far too late. Having neutralizing antibodies before viral exposure could possibly protect an individual from infection. A challenge for HIV vaccine design is to figure out how to stimulate the immune system to make broadly neutralizing antibodies more quickly.

A new study by Emory Vaccine Center scientists provides details on how this broadening process occurs. The study tracks how in one Rwandan study participant infected by HIV, the virus escaped an initial attack by the immune system, only to have the immune system come back taking a broader approach. 

The results were published in the journal PLOS Pathogens

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