Gene in HIV Makes HIV-2 Susceptible to Immune System Response, Researchers Say
A team of researchers from Oxford University and the U.K. Medical Research Council unit in Gambia have discovered that a gene in HIV, known as the gag gene, makes HIV-2 more susceptible to an immune system response, ANI/DailyIndia.com reports. According to ANI/DailyIndia.com, HIV-2 progresses to AIDS in only 20% of people who test positive for the specific virus strain, compared with 98% of people who test positive for HIV-1 and do not take antiretroviral drugs.
For the study, the researchers followed a group of HIV-positive women for more than 10 years. The researchers found that the gag gene rarely mutates, making HIV-2 susceptible to an immune system response. The gag gene, which is composed of 18 amino acids, directs CD4+ T cells to attack the virus and remove it from the blood stream before further harm to the immune system can be done, ANI/DailyIndia.com reports.
According to the researchers, a vaccine containing the correct part of the gag gene could activate the body's immune response and increase its ability to stop HIV-2 from progressing to AIDS. According to Aleksandra Leligdowicz, who leads the MRC unit, the latest research suggests that it is possible to create a vaccine that will not prevent infection or eradicate the virus but that could prevent progression to AIDS. "Clearly there is something special about the gag region -- and it looks like vaccine researchers should be focusing on it," Leligdowicz said. Most strains of HIV-1 also have a gag gene, according to Leligdowicz, who added that the 2% of people who test positive for HIV-1 and do not progress to AIDS also demonstrate a strong immune response to the gene (ANI/DailyIndia.com, 9/8).