HIV doesn’t have a brain and it doesn’t strategize.
But the way that the virus mutates and evades the immune system in the early part of an infection, you might think it did.
Emory Vaccine Center researcher Cynthia Derdeyn and her colleagues have a new paper in PLOS Pathogens that is a reality check for researchers designing possible HIV vaccines. The results come from a collaboration with the Rwanda Zambia HIV Research Group. (Although the patients in this paper are from Zambia only.)
Recently there has been some excitement over the discovery of robust neutralizing antibodies in patients.
The bottom line, according to Derdeyn’s team: even if a vaccine succeeds in stimulating antibodies that can neutralize HIV, the virus is still going to mutate furiously and may escape those antibodies. To resist HIV, someone’s immune system may need to have several types of antibodies ready to go, their results suggest.
A companion paper in the same issue of PLOS Pathogens from South African scientists has similarly bracing results.