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Monkey vaccine study may advance HIV vaccine research

Category: Infectious Diseases

Following a vaccine study to determine if monkeys could be protected against contracting simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV, the animal equivalent to HIV, researchers have uncovered fresh insight into HIV vaccine research. The mechanism that prompts protection from the disease may prove to be comparable in treatment for humans.

To identify the process of protection from SIV, the research team examined amino acid sequences that were viral and the monkeys' immune system responses. Their goal was to determine measures of immune responses in the animals that predict protection from SIV. The results showed that antibodies that attacked the virus were sufficient in prevention of the disease.

Utilizing the results of their study, team leaders Mario Roederer, Ph.D., and John Mascola, M.D., discovered that both HIV and SIV used similar methods to escape the immune system. The viral spikes that were resistant to neutralization in SIV tended to cause infection. To combat this resistance, the scientists administered new amino acid sequences that changed the resistant spikes to sensitive ones, thus altering their composition and neutralizing infectious cells. Lab tests conducted on viral HIV cells had a similar effect. According to Mascola and Roederer, the reasons for the success or failure of future vaccine trials in human HIV will be more apparent if scientists take their amino acid research into consideration and work to decrease neutralization resistance in infectious cells.

HIV vaccine research
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, vaccines are scientists' best weapon against deadly and infectious diseases such as smallpox, measles and yellow fever. Currently, there is no vaccine to cure HIV due to its unique method of attacking and eluding the human immune system. Because of this, scientists do not have a clear plan on how to provide adequate immune protection from the virus.

The NIAID supports biomedical research in order to further education for scientists on HIV and to assess the most promising vaccine candidates. Finding an effective and durable vaccine to HIV is their top goal, however, they also examine compounds that can alter or deter the disease in order to improve the quality of life for HIV patients. Many lab tests for vaccine research involve blood testing of human HIV samples to determine efficient paths to vaccination and increase the hope for the possibility of a cure.

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