The University of Melbourne's latest insight into immunity to HIV could help to develop a vaccine to build antibodies' defences against the disease.
By investigating the action of the human antibodies called ADCC, in people with HIV, researchers were able to identify that the virus evolves to evade or 'escape' the antibodies.
Professor Stephen Kent of the University of Melbourne and one of the senior authors on the paper said ADCC antibodies have been strongly implicated in protection from HIV in several vaccine trials but their action was poorly understood.
"These results show what a slippery customer the HIV virus is, but also shows that these ADCC antibodies are really forcing the virus into changing, in ways that cause it to be weaker," said Kent.
"It also implies that if good ADCC antibodies were available prior to infection, via a vaccine, we might be able to stop the virus taking hold. This is the holy grail," added Kent.
The group at the University of Melbourne's Department of Microbiology and Immunology analysed blood samples of people with HIV and found their virus had evolved to evade or 'escape' the ADCC antibodies against HIV they are making to try to control their virus.
The work has been published in the prestigious international journal PNAS.