A research article in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology highlights the fact that HIV relies upon viral variants called "escape mutants" to avoid being recognised by the human immune system.
The report further says that this avoidance seems to thwart effective control of virus replication, causing HIV-infected patients to progress to AIDS.
Drs. Christian Althaus and Rob De Boer, lead researchers on the study, say that it is difficult to discern the dynamics of immune escape because data from infected patients is relatively sparse, and that is why they performed computer simulations to help interpret longitudinal data derived from HIV-infected patients.
The researchers say that their model illustrated that the virus often evades the immune response very slowly, on a timescale of years.
Depending on the diversity of the immune system, the virus will either be controlled effectively or accumulate detrimental mutations.
The results suggest an alternative strategy of vaccine design could be to reduce the replicative capacity of the virus.