Scientists Developing HIV/AIDS Vaccine That Targets Three Virus Strains Spreading in China, Other Countries
Researchers are developing an HIV/AIDS vaccine that targets three strains of the virus spreading through parts of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Reuters reports. According to Reuters, two closely related HIV strains are spreading primarily through injection drug use in China's southwestern Yunnan province, the northwestern Xinjiang province and the southern Guangdong province. A third strain spread primarily through heterosexual sex has been found in Yunnan and the southern Guangxi province, according to Chen Zhiwei of Hong Kong's newly created AIDS Institute. Chen added that researchers have been employing gene sequencing to track the evolution of HIV strains in China, as well as their geographic spread.
The HIV strains found in south and west China are similar to strains found in Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Myanmar, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, Chen said. He added that the similarity between strains in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong could indicate the traveling routes used by injection drug users in the region.
According to Chen, researchers in China and the U.S. in collaboration with the AIDS Institute have developed a vaccine based on the two HIV strains spread by injection drug use. He added that they aim to have the vaccine in animal tests by the end of the year. Researchers hope to determine if the vaccine would be effective against the strain primarily spread through sex, Chen said. There is about a 60% to 70% "identity between the subtypes," Chen said, adding, "If viruses are very closely related, changes of cross-protection are better" (Tan, Reuters, 1/21).