HIV beats our immune system by ‘innovative mutations’

February 28th, 2009 - 3:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 28 (IANS) The human immunodeficiency virus or HIV adapts so well to the body’s immune system that any successful AIDS vaccine must keep pace with its ever mutating profile, researchers say.
A new study, based on a survey of 2,800 HIV patients on five continents, better describes HIV’s ability to adapt by spelling out at least 14 different “escape mutations” that keeps the virus alive after it interacts genetically with immunity molecules that attack HIV.

“Key genetic regions of HIV introduced into individuals of different ancestry in different places have been evolving to a greater or lesser degree according to inherited factors controlling immune response,” said Richard Kaslow.

Kaslow is a professor at the University Kasof Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) School of Public Health and study co-author. “If HIV adapts differently in genetically distinct hosts, the challenge ahead in vaccine design is formidable,” he said.

Researchers looked at different DNA variations of HIV in conjunction with different forms of human leukocyte antigen (HLA), a group of molecules that orchestrate immune response.

Normally HLA molecules present fragments of HIV proteins on the surface of infected cells to the immune system, acting as a signal for HIV destruction.

The Nature study shows just how efficiently the virus evolves escape mutations that help infected cells avoid destruction, Kaslow said, according to an UAB release.

The future of vaccine exploration will need to address the escape mutation capacity and identify new drug targets that work against an ever-changing HIV immunology landscape, said Philip Goulder, professor of immunology at the University of Oxford and the study’s senior author.

These findings are published online in Nature.

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