AIDS vaccine candidate appears to completely clear virus from the body in monkeys

Sep. 11, 2013 — An HIV/AIDS vaccine candidate developed by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University appears to have the ability to completely clear an AIDS-causing virus from the body. The promising vaccine candidate is being developed at OHSU’s Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute. It is being tested through the use of a non-human primate form of HIV, called simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV, which causes AIDS in monkeys. Following further development, it is hoped an HIV-form of the vaccine candidate can soon be tested in humans.These research results were published online today by the journal Nature. The results will also appear in a future print version of the publication.”To date, HIV infection has only been cured in a very small number of highly-publicized but unusual clinical cases in which HIV-infected individuals were treated with anti-viral medicines very early after the onset of infection or received a stem cell transplant to combat cancer,” said Louis Picker, M.D., associate director of the OHSU Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute. “This latest research suggests that certain immune responses elicited by a new vaccine may also have the ability to completely remove HIV from the body.”The Picker lab’s approach involves the use of cytomegalovirus, or CMV, a common virus already carried by a large percentage of the population. In short, the researchers discovered that pairing CMV with SIV had a unique effect. They found that a modified version of CMV engineered to express SIV proteins generates and indefinitely maintains so-called “effector memory” T-cells that are capable of searching out and destroying SIV-infected cells.T-cells are a key component of the body’s immune system, which fights off disease, but T-cells elicited by conventional vaccines of SIV itself are not able to eliminate the virus. The SIV-specific T-cells elicited by the modified CMV were different. …

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Simian foamy viruses readily occur between humans and macaques in urban Bangladesh

Sep. 4, 2013 — Throughout Asia, humans and monkeys live side-by side in many urban areas. An international research team from the University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Jahangirnagar University has been examining transmission of a virus from monkeys to humans in Bangladesh, one of the world’s most densely populated countries. The scientists have found that some people in these urban areas are concurrently infected with multiple strains of simian foamy virus (SFV), including strains from more than one source (recombinant) that researchers originally detected in the monkeys.Simian foamy viruses, which are ubiquitous in nonhuman primates, are retroviruses like HIV. Retroviruses are shown to exhibit high levels of mutation and recombination — a potentially explosive combination.Their paper, “Zoonotic simian foamy virus in Bangladesh reflects diverse patterns of transmission and co-infection” published in the Sept. 4 issue of Emerging Microbes and Infections (EMI), characterizes the simian retroviral strains that are being zoonotically transmitted and provides a glimpse into the behaviors of humans and monkeys contributing to the infections.By analyzing what is happening at the human-primate interface, the researchers hope to protect humans from another deadly outbreak like HIV. Their focus is in Asia because it is a continent that has witnessed the emergence of several infectious diseases in the past decade. Asia also has a volatile combination of an increasingly mobile and immunocompromised population living in proximity with animals.Since more humans have been shown to have been infected with SFV through primate contact than with any other simian-borne virus, the researchers reason that pinpointing the factors that influence SFV transmission and infection are important to a general understanding of how viruses can jump the species barrier.”If we want to understand how, where and why these primate viruses are being transmitted, we need to be looking at SFV in Asia where millions of people and tens of thousands of macaques are interacting everyday and where we estimate that thousands of people could be infected with strains of SFV,” said Lisa Jones-Engel, a primatologist with the National Primate Research Center at the University of Washington and the project leader. “These Asian rhesus macaques are Darwinian superstars. They are very responsive to change and, unlike many other species of primates, they are going to continue to thrive in human-altered habitats.”Jones-Engel said if researchers had been on the ground 50 years ago, they may have seen how simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIV) crossed the species barrier resulting in HIV.”We have been playing catch up with the SIV-HIV question for years,” she said. …

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