Well HIV, do you have any last words?
Scientists led by the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. have discovered a weak point in the HIV/AIDS virus that could serve as a target site for a new vaccine. Essentially, they’re setting their cross-hairs on something called the “fusion peptide,” which is a string of amino acids that help the virus infect healthy cells.
Part of what the reason it’s so difficult to engineer an effective vaccine for HIV is because, once inside the body, it hijacks our own immune system and uses it against us. Vaccines, on the other hand, work by preparing our immune system for a specific virus by giving our bodies a small dose of it. If your body’s immune system is already being controlled by the virus, however, that presents an obvious problem.
That’s why scientists are so excited over this latest discovery.
You see, there’s one HIV-infected person that they’ve been studying because this patient has a stronger natural resistance to it than normal. In the quest to figure out why, they discovered a neutralizing antibody present in the person’s blood that they’ve named VRC34.01. This antibody was found to bind to the fusion peptide we mentioned earlier, and prevent it from infecting healthy white blood cells.
Naturally, the team is now trying to figure out a way to replicate these antibodies and then package them into a vaccine. If all goes smoothly, this could prove to be a trump card against a virus that has plagued humanity for decades.
Take that, STDs.