Thursday, January 15, 2009

HIV virus a step ahead of body’s defences

A group of American and British scientists have discovered that the HIV virus is cleverer than they thought. Their research found the virus adapts very quickly to keep a step ahead of the body’s immune system. Their conclusions make it very clear that finding a vaccine is a huge challenge. One of the reasons for this is because the virus has many faces. The researchers believe the virus creates 14 different “escape routes” when it is attacked. This means the virus can adapt itself quickly and easily to beat any vaccine. Professor Philip Goulder of Oxford University calls this “high speed evolution”. He says: "Even in the short time that HIV has been in the human population, it is doing an effective job of evading our best efforts."
The research team analyzed data from more than 2,800 HIV-infected patients across five continents. They found the virus is adapting differently with different races. This makes the virus similar to separate armies, all adapting to their different environments. It is possible every HIV-infected person might need his or her own unique vaccine. American researcher Dr. Richard Kaslow warned “the challenge ahead in vaccine design is formidable”. Another American, Dr. Bruce Walker, said: “It's very clear there’s a battle going on between humans and this virus, and the virus is evolving to become unrecognized by the immune system." HIV has killed 25 million people worldwide. An estimated 33 million currently live with the virus.

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