HIV is adapting, but new vulnerabilities are being found

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Scientists at Simon Fraser University have found out that the natural human antibodies could be directed to a new weak spot identified on the HIV virus. Attacking this area can have a great impact against all HIV strains, felt the scientists at British Columbia. The research team has traced the sequential changes in HIV virus since it has been identified in 1979.

“Much research has focused on how HIV adapts to antiviral drugs-we wanted to investigate how HIV adapts to us, its human hosts, over time,” lead scientist Zabrina Brumme, an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Health Sciences explained their approach.

“HIV adapts to the immune response in reproducible ways. In theory, this could be bad news for host immunity-and vaccines-if such mutations were to spread in the population. Just like transmitted drug resistance can compromise treatment success, transmitted immune escape mutations could erode our ability to naturally fight HIV,” Brumme elaborated.

“Overall, our results show that the virus is adapting very slowly in North America,” Brumme said. “In parts of the world harder hit by HIV though, rates of adaptation could be higher,” she added, “which is a cause of particular alarm for the areas.” The researchers completed the difficult task of extracting viral RNA and culturing them in a laboratory setting to come up with this conclusion.

“We already have the tools to curb HIV in the form of treatment-and we continue to advance towards a vaccine and a cure. Together, we can stop HIV/AIDS before the virus subverts host immunity through population-level adaptation,” added a participating scientist.

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