First days after HIV infection may hold vaccine key

By Laura MacInnis

GENEVA (Reuters) - The body’s initial response to contracting HIV could provide the answers scientists need to develop a vaccine for the AIDS-causing virus, a Nobel-winning expert said on Monday.

The AIDS epidemic has killed about 25 million people, and about 33 million worldwide are now infected with HIV. Cocktails of drugs can control the virus but so far there is no cure.

Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, who shared the 2008 Nobel prize for medicine with Luc Montagnier for their discovery of HIV a quarter-century ago, told a World AIDS Day event that the human body reacts very distinctly — and quickly — to HIV infection.

The nearly immediate cellular responses seen in the gut and elsewhere could point scientists toward a vaccine that keeps HIV from taking hold and morphing into the immunity-destroying disease, the French expert said.

“Everything is decided very early after exposure to the virus … When I say very early after, it is a matter of days,” she said in a speech at the World Health Organization.

“If we know better the early events of the acute infection, we can think about developing a better vaccine strategy,” she said, warning: “If we don’t make progress in this basic knowledge, we will never have a vaccine.”

Recent efforts to develop a vaccine by jump-starting immune-system cells that tackle the virus — such as one last year by Merck — have yielded disappointing results.

Barre-Sinoussi said such “conventional” vaccines would not be enough to tackle HIV, which is a retrovirus, meaning it copies bits of its own genetic code into the DNA of its host.

“We have to consider the conventional approach together with another approach that considers the pathogenic signals,” she said. “We need to understand better the role of genetics.”

The Institut Pasteur expert also called for more research into co-infections between HIV and tuberculosis, and hit back at those who say the billions of dollars that have been funneled into AIDS projects have drained funds needed for other diseases.

“I am a little bit surprised to see an opposition between the fight against HIV and other primary health issues. It is a total misunderstanding and a major mistake,” she said. “I do not understand why these people cannot work together.”

(Editing by Katie Nguyen)


Related Posts:

By Adam Cox STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A French scientist who shared this year’s Nobel prize for medicine said on Saturday he believed the transmission of AIDS could be eliminated within years. Luc Montagnier, director of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention, told a news conference together with this year’s other winners for medicine that halting

Full Post: Nobel winner sees end to AIDS spread within years

By Andrew Quinn WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A global AIDS vaccine conference this week will seek fresh strategies against the HIV virus, with experts weighing the value of basic laboratory research against large-scale human clinical trials after a string of disappointments. Approaches focusing on “neutralizing antibodies” that would allow the human immune system to block infection completely, are

Full Post: AIDS vaccine focus shifts after disappointments

By Wendell Roelf CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - A U.S. recession could cut AIDS funding and impede the drive to find a vaccine for the disease, a senior official with a group spearheading vaccine research said on Tuesday. The United States is the center of AIDS vaccine research. Its government contributed $659 million, or 69 percent of the

Full Post: U.S. downturn could hurt AIDS vaccine drive: group

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Genetically engineered immune cells can spot the AIDS virus even when it tries to disguise itself, offering a potential new way to treat the incurable infection, researchers reported on Sunday. The killer T-cells, dubbed “assassin” cells, were able to recognize other cells infected by HIV and slow

Full Post: Souped-up immune cells catch even disguised HIV

By Anne Harding NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Researchers from Johns Hopkins have solved the decades-old mystery of why a vaccine developed to prevent a common childhood viral infection wound up making kids sick. The findings provide important clues to how to develop a safe, effective vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the main cause of wintertime

Full Post: Research shows why 1960s RSV shot sickened children

Site Navigation

Most Read