A current debate in the HIV-1 vaccine field concerns the ability of an immunodeficiency virus to elicit a protective response. One argument is that HIV-1 superinfections are frequent in healthy individuals, because virus evades conventional immune surveillance, a serious obstacle to vaccine design. The opposing argument is that protection from superinfection is significant, reflecting a robust immune response that might be harnessed by vaccination to prevent disease. In an experiment designed to address the debate, two macaques received an I.V. inoculation with SHIV KU-1-d (a derivative of SHIV KU-1) and were rested for > 10 months. Infection elicited diverse neutralizing antibody activities in both animals. Animals were then exposed to SHIV 89.6P (I.V.), a virus carrying a heterologous envelope protein relative to the vaccine strain. Infection was monitored by viral load and CD4+ T-cell measurements. All control animals were infected and most succumbed to disease. In contrast, protection from superinfection was statistically significant in test monkeys; one animal showed no evidence of superinfection at any time point and the second showed evidence of virus at only one time point over a 6-month observation period. Neither animal showed signs of disease. Perhaps this protective state may serve as a ‘gold-standard’ for HIV-1 vaccine development, as a similar degree of protection against immunodeficiency virus infections in humans would be much desired.
Keywords: Rhesus macaques, Protective immunity, SHIV, Neutralization, Vaccine
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