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New vulnerability discovered in HIV

Category: HIV

A recent study conducted by Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), examined two HIV-positive South African women and, in it, researchers discovered that when a sugar known as glycan formed at a certain position on the protein coat of the HIV pathogen, it became vulnerable to an antibody attack.

"Broadly neutralizing antibodies are considered to be the key to making an AIDS vaccine. This discovery provides new clues on how vaccines could be designed to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies," said Salim Abdool Karim, M.D., director of CAPRISA.

These powerful antibodies that are capable of killing nearly 88 percent of HIV strands were discovered by scientists only three years ago, but it wasn't until this study that it was understood how or why the body produces them. The research showed that the virus' weakness - the glycan on its exterior - was not present when the women first contracted HIV.

Due to the less potent antibodies that continually tried to combat HIV in the women, the disease eventually showed its weak spot, which allowed the body to develop the more powerful, neutralizing antibodies.

Additional research, which looked at data from the University of North Carolina and Harvard University, found that this area of vulnerability in the disease, known as position 332, may only be present in two-thirds of that particular subtype of HIV that the two women in the study contracted, which can be detected with a lab test.

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