The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) "is much like a language that is a collection of dialects," an article on the new AIDScience.com web site points out: "Some words and phrases are conserved across the languages." Yet, global communication across all dialects would be "less than perfect."
Similarly, some researchers fear that vaccinations designed to target a single HIV-1 strain wouldn't offer sufficient protection from all versions of the virus.
Vaccines based on the viral forms most common in the United States and Europe--namely, a subtype called clade B--might prove useless for fighting the HIV-1 strains found in other parts of the world such as Africa.
What are the prospects for developing a "universal" HIV-1 vaccine, capable of fighting all clades of the virus, and what's the best research strategy? One perspective on these questions is presented today at the web site, AIDScience.com
Researcher Anne S. De Groot offers an optimistic viewpoint in a peer-reviewed research review article: New bioinformatics tools--which use computer power to analyze genetic sequence information--are now at hand to support a universal or "cross-clade" vaccine, says De Groot, a Brown University scientist.
To create a broadly effective vaccine, De Groot contends, researchers must identify regions of HIV-1's genetic sequence that stimulate immune response universally-or, across all versions of the virus. After all, she says, "Just as there may be certain words that are conserved in all dialects of French, there may be a set of epitopes that are conserved across all strains and clades of HIV."
But, analyzing all known HIV-1 sequences to locate universally important segments is no small task: Public databases now include more than 44,000 HIV-1 protein sequences, and the virus is constantly mutating and recombining. Fortunately, the AIDScience.com article notes, several computer-based algorithms are n
Contact: Ginger Pinholster
American Association for the Advancement of Science