A small number of people who are infected with HIV-1 produce antibodies that fight the virus, according to a new survey.
The findings show that these antibodies do not just fight one virus strain, but also neutralise almost all the others known. Research into developing a HIV vaccine focuses on discovering the factors responsible for the production of such antibodies.
A Swiss research team at the University of Zurich and University Hospital Zurich (USZ) has been searching for answers.
"Several have already been identified: For example, the virus load and the diversity of the viruses, the duration of the infection, and the ethnicity of the affected person can all influence the body's immune response. In our new study, we were able to identify another factor: The genome of the HI virus," said Huldrych Günthard, deputy director of the Department of Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiology at USZ.
The starting point for the researchers was the data and bio-banked blood samples of around 4,500 HIV-infected people, recorded in the Swiss HIV Cohort Study and the Zurich Primary HIV Infection Study.
"By comparing the immune response of...patients, we were able to show that the HI virus has an influence on the extent and specificity of the antibody reactions," explained Roger Kouyos, the research group leader at USZ.