Body's Own Antibodies May Drive New Strains of HIV

Scientists in California have provided the first detailed look at how human antibodies, proteins critical for the body’s defense against invading pathogens, may actually drive human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to mutate and escape detection by the immune system. The findings, reported online March 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may be key in efforts to develop an effective AIDS vaccine.

Deceptive Strategy Shields HIV from Destruction

Researchers have discovered one way in which the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) wins its cat-and-mouse game with the body’s immune system. The study, published in the March 20, 2003, issue of the journal Nature, shows that HIV-1, a common strain of the virus that causes AIDS, uses a strategy not seen before in other viruses to escape attack by antibodies, one of the immune system’s prime weapons against invading viruses and bacteria.

Researchers find oral transmission of HIV possible

When exposed to high levels of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cells lining the mouth can develop a low-level infection, a finding that increases our understanding of the risks of oral transmission of the disease. Researchers from Charles R. Drew University and the University of California, Los Angeles, report their findings in the March 2003 issue of the Journal of Virology. “The majority of HIV type 1 infections occur via mucosal contact, and there are several reports indicating that the oral mucosa may be one route of exposure,” say the researchers. “It is difficult to confirm that oral mucosa is a major transmission portal because of the correlation between oral-genital contact and other transmission risk behaviors.”