SANBI RESEARCHERS EXPLORE HOW HIV MAY BECOME “IMMUNE” TO VACCINES.

Roux-Cil Ferreira, a PhD student in the group of Prof Simon Travers, has recently published a paper in Nature Scientific Reports (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-33390-2).  In this paper she explored how sugar molecules bound to the surface proteins of HIV are in a constant state of flux in order to protect the virion from attack by the host immune system.  She found that if mutations in the virus cause the loss of a sugar in this protective ‘glycan shield’, the glycan shield can compensate for this loss and still protect the virus.  This research provides valuable information that should be considered in HIV-1 vaccine research – while a vaccine-induced antibody can recognize and neutralize HIV, the virus’ protective structures can adapt to become “immune” to neutralization.

Fungiwe Mpithi