Study: Evolving DNA boost HIV's survival

March 2, 2009 at 2:29 PM
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala., March 2 (UPI) -- U.S. and British researchers say HIV's ability to adapt so well to the body's defense system presents a "formidable" challenge to medical scientists.

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Oxford say any successful AIDS vaccine must keep pace with the ever-changing immunological profile of the human immunodeficiency virus. The scientists who analyzed genetic data from more than 2,800 HIV-infected patients on five continents described HIV's ability to adapt by detailing at least 14 different "escape mutations" that help keep the virus alive after it interacts genetically with immunity molecules.

"Key genetic regions of HIV introduced into individuals of different ancestry in different places have been evolving to a greater or lesser degree according to inherited factors controlling immune response," said Dr. Richard Kaslow, a University of Alabama at Birmingham professor. "If HIV adapts differently in genetically distinct hosts, the challenge ahead in vaccine design is formidable."

The study, which included scientists from Japan, Australia, Spain, Barbados, Botswana, South Africa and Canada, appears in the online issue of the journal Nature.

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