Through a new study, some key differences have been found amongst the HIV-infected people, based on how their immune systems react during the disease.
These differences and discoveries can point towards the development of an effective vaccine for the infection.
The researchers conducted a study of 100 HIV-infected people, half of whose immune systems eventually made antibodies that were capable of more or less neutralising the virus, and half whose systems did not.
Barton F. Haynes, one of the researchers at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, said, “This work gives us the beginning of an understanding of the immune mechanisms that control the development of broadly neutralising antibodies, which is a major goal of a successful HIV vaccine.”
The study found that HIV-patients whose immune systems made neutralising antibodies have similar alterations and perturbation as found in people suffering from autoimmune diseases (diseases where the immune system starts treating the healthy body cells as foreign cells and starts attacking them).
The researchers studied a person having both HIV and a form of lupus erythematosus (an autoimmune disease). In this case, the person’s immune system both controlled the HIV virus as well as developed the neutralising antibodies.
Hence it was deduced that the immune disruptions causing the patient to develop lupus were enabling the broadly neutralising antibodies to come to good use and fight the virus.
Another researcher from the team, Anthony Moody, also added that “In essence, HIV cloaks its vulnerable sites that the immune system wants to see by making them resemble our own tissues, thereby creating an environment in which the virus is protected and the beneficial antibodies are treated as a threat to the body.”
Henceforth, the study concludes that for neutralising antibody-inducing HIV vaccine to be successful, the immune perturbations that occur in an HIV infection, need to be mimicked with a vaccination.
The study was published in the Journal Science Immunology.