To catch an epidemic

HIV evades vaccine by mutating

Published: Friday 15 February 2002

researchers might have to rethink their strategy for developing an effective vaccine against Human Immunodeficiency Virus (hiv) reveals a study published in Nature . Researcher Dan Barouch of Harvard Medical School in Boston and his team have shown that hiv can mutate and evade the protection provided by vaccines.

The researchers were using a vaccine that affected the host's immune system directly to develop an arsenal, which would attack the virus-infected cells. Unfortunately, the present report shows that even this strategy has loopholes.

Earlier, the group had proved the effectiveness of their vaccine on eight Rhesus monkeys. Seven out of these remained stable for more than two years. The vaccine failed to bring out desired results in one monkey because of a single point mutation that had occurred in the virus. This initiated the cascade of events resulting in the vaccine failure and eventually the monkey's death.

The results question a vaccination strategy based solely on the control of viral replication, says J D Lifson, aids vaccine program, National Cancer Institute, Maryland, usa. "The findings should be taken as a reality check at this time," says Barouch.

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