A study tracing the evolution of HIV in North America involving researchers at Simon Fraser University has found evidence that the virus is slowly adapting over time to its human hosts. However, this change is so gradual that it is unlikely to have an impact on vaccine design.
“Much research has focused on how HIV adapts to antiviral drugs—we wanted to investigate how HIV adapts to us, its human hosts, over time,” says lead author Zabrina Brumme, an assistant professor in SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences.
The study, published today in PLOS Genetics, was led by Brumme’s lab in collaboration with scientists at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, UBC, and sites across the U.S. including Harvard University, the New York Blood Center and the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
“HIV adapts to the immune response in reproducible ways. In theory, this could be bad news for host immunity—and vaccines—if such mutations were to spread in the population,” says Brumme. “Just like transmitted drug resistance can compromise treatment success, transmitted immune escape mutations could erode our ability to naturally fight HIV.”
Researchers characterized HIV sequences from patients dating from 1979, the beginning of the North American HIV epidemic, to the modern day.
The team reconstructed the epidemic’s ancestral HIV sequence and from there, assessed the spread of immune escape mutations in the population.
“Overall, our results show that the virus is adapting very slowly in North America,” says Brumme. “In parts of the world harder hit by HIV though, rates of adaptation could be higher.”
The study ends with a message of hope, Brumme adds. “We already have the tools to curb HIV in the form of treatment—and we continue to advance towards a vaccine and a cure. Together, we can stop HIV/AIDS before the virus subverts host immunity through population-level adaptation.”
Numerous SFU researchers contributed to the analysis, which required the careful recovery of viral RNA from historic specimens followed by laboratory culture. A trio of SFU graduate students, including health sciences student Laura Cotton, shared the lead author role.
“It was painstaking work,” says Cotton, “but it was fascinating to study these isolates in the lab, knowing that they had played an important role in the history of HIV on our continent.” Numerous undergraduate students, graduate students, postdocs and faculty including adjunct professor Art Poon and associate professor Mark Brockman were among other co-authors.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) funded the study.
Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.
Zabrina Brumme | Eurek Alert!
Exploring a new frontier of cyber-physical systems: The human body
18.05.2015 | National Science Foundation
Soft-tissue engineering for hard-working cartilage
18.05.2015 | Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Physicists have developed an innovative method that could enable the efficient use of nanocomponents in electronic circuits. To achieve this, they have developed a layout in which a nanocomponent is connected to two electrical conductors, which uncouple the electrical signal in a highly efficient manner. The scientists at the Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel have published their results in the scientific journal “Nature Communications” together with their colleagues from ETH Zurich.
Electronic components are becoming smaller and smaller. Components measuring just a few nanometers – the size of around ten atoms – are already being produced...
Development and implementation of an advanced automobile parking navigation platform for parking services
To fulfill the requirements of the industry, PolyU researchers developed the Advanced Automobile Parking Navigation Platform, which includes smart devices,...
The world's first electrical car and passenger ferry powered by batteries has entered service in Norway. The ferry only uses 150 kWh per route, which...
On Tuesday, 19 May 2015 the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its home port in Bremerhaven, setting a course for the Arctic. Led by Dr Ilka Peeken from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) a team of 53 researchers from 11 countries will investigate the effects of climate change in the Arctic, from the surface ice floes down to the seafloor.
RV Polarstern will enter the sea-ice zone north of Spitsbergen. Covering two shallow regions on their way to deeper waters, the scientists on board will focus...
Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego developed a gel filled with toxin-absorbing nanosponges that could lead to an effective treatment for skin and wound infections caused by MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This "nanosponge-hydrogel" minimized the growth of skin lesions on mice infected with MRSA - without the use of antibiotics. The researchers recently published their findings online in Advanced Materials.
To make the nanosponge-hydrogel, the team mixed nanosponges, which are nanoparticles that absorb dangerous toxins produced by MRSA, E. coli and other...
20.05.2015 | Event News
18.05.2015 | Event News
12.05.2015 | Event News
26.05.2015 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
26.05.2015 | Life Sciences
26.05.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering