Los Alamos researchers recommend AIDS vaccine strategies

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., July 3, 2002 -- Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory are using their extensive genetic understanding of the HIV-1 virus -- the most common form of the virus that causes AIDS in humans -- to consider best strategies in the pursuit of creating a vaccine to fight the virus.

In an article appearing recently in the journal Science, a team of Los Alamos researchers -- in conjunction with researchers from Duke University, Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Alabama -- suggests using a consensus or genetic ancestor of the HIV-1 virus when developing vaccines, rather than basing vaccines on geographically specific strains of the virus.

"We started working on this problem several years ago in response to a request from the National Institutes of Health to review strategies for HIV vaccine development," said Bette Korber of Los Alamos' Theoretical Division. "Essentially, there is no common strategy for vaccine development. Often, vaccine candidates are selected solely because a particular strain happens to be available. But HIV-1 strains circulating globally are extremely variable genetically, so choosing a locally available virus as basis for a worldwide vaccine may not be the best strategy. Our team has recommended considering alternative strategies of selecting vaccine strains that are central to circulating forms of the HIV-1 virus."

Los Alamos is home to a worldwide database of HIV virus information. Los Alamos' HIV database has extensive information on the genetic structure of the virus and information on various strains and subtypes, among other information. HIV has an extraordinary knack for rapidly changing, making it difficult to control. HIV evolves even within a single individual to become a genetically diverse set of viruses. Because of this genetic variability, development of a vaccine that will attack common vulnerabilities in multiple strains of the virus bec

Contact: James E. Rickman
DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory

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