Scientists may be very close to finding an effective vaccine for AIDS. They have found that, to make AIDS virus vulnerable to attack, two simple changes have to be made in its outer cover.
Julie Overbaugh, a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has revealed her team studied a woman who carried an AIDS virus, which was inactivated by antibodies produced by her body.
She said that this woman was identified during a 2007 project wherein a group of women at the risk of HIV were studied in Mombasa, a finding that was reported in the Journal AIDS then.
In their latest study, the researchers analysed the virus carried by this woman.
The study revealed that the virus contains mutation in four amino acids in the envelope protein. Two of such amino acids, when introduced into unrelated strains of HIV in the laboratory, provided sensitivity to inactivation by a number of antibodies produced in people infected with HIV.
The researchers believe that such mutations may cause a change in the overall structure of the envelope protein, which results in exposure to the immune system of regions that are normally hidden.
Vaccines containing envelope proteins that include such mutations might be able to stimulate an antibody response that would protect against infection with HIV, should further research confirms this idea.
The new findings have been published in PLoS Medicine.