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HIV 'uses several strategies' to escape immune pressure

world Updated: Sep 19, 2009 12:01 IST

PTI
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In a research of how HIV mutates in response to immune system, scientists claim to have found evidence that the virus can take several escape routes, not one preferred route.

The human immune system has the ability to temporarily overpower HIV in early infection. Recent studies showed that most newly infected patients develop neutralising antibodies. But, the problem is HIV's ability to mutate, disguising itself enough to get away from the antibodies.

Now, a team has claimed that if a vaccine component is identified which can stimulate neutralising antibodies, HIV's capacity for rapid mutation can still be a confounding factor.

"A single type of neutralising antibody may not be enough to contain HIV. These neutralising antibodies work really well -- they hit the virus fast and hard. But so far, every time we look, the virus escapes," lead researcher Prof Cynthia Derdeyn of Emory University School of Medicine said.

Derdeyn and her colleagues collaborated with a public health program which provides thousands of couples counselling and condom supplies every three months. Despite these measures, a low level of HIV transmission still occurs.

The collaboration allowed the team to take blood samples a few weeks after infection occurred and then later as two participants' immune responses continued.

The scientists isolated individual viruses over the first two years of HIV infection and tested how well the patients' own antibodies could neutralise them.