Oct. 27 (UPI) -- A new HIV vaccine candidate is showing effectiveness in animal studies in stimulating an immune response against sugars that form a shield around HIV.
A team of researchers from the University of Maryland and Duke University created a new protein-sugar molecule that could protect against HIV.
"An obstacle to creating an effective HIV vaccine is the difficulty of getting the immune system to generate antibodies against the sugar shield of multiple HIV strains," Lai-Xi Wang, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UMD, said in a news release. "Our method addresses this problem by designing a vaccine component that mimics a protein-sugar part of this shield."
Researchers designed the vaccine candidate with an HIV protein fragment from gp120, which covers HIV like a protective envelope. The HIV virus's defenses are strengthened by a sugar shield that covers the gp120 envelope.
When tested on rabbits, the vaccine stimulated antibody responses against the sugar shield in four different strains of HIV.
The research overcame two problems that have plagued researchers in creating an HIV vaccine that can target gp120. The sugar shield on HIV is similar to sugars in the body so it does not create a strong immune response and secondly, there are more than 60 strains of the HIV virus currently and the virus often mutates so finding antibodies against gp120 in one strain may not work in another.
The study, published Thursday in Cell Chemical Biology, could pave the way for an HIV vaccine.