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‘Elite’ HIV woman knows the secret to AIDs vaccine

The woman called “Elite suppressor”, who was infected by her husband of the HIV virus about 10 years ago. But in the past 10 years till now, she’s never shown any symptoms of infection with the AIDS virus.

Researchers guess that she might have the vaccine or secret on how to defeat the HIV/AIDS viruses. She seems to know how to naturally control the viruses, whereas her husband needs to depend on strong drugs to keep the viruses under control.

The team at Johns Hopkins University has started to study the immune cells of this “super” woman.

“This is the best evidence to date that elite suppressors can have fully pathogenic virus,” said Joel Blankson, who led the study. “The feeling was initially that they had defective virus,” Blankson added in a telephone interview.

But the couple has been monogamous for at least 17 years, Blankson said, and tests show they are infected with the same strain of virus. What is different is the immune system of the wife, who cannot be named for privacy reasons.

“That’s a good sign in terms of developing a therapeutic vaccine,” Blankson said. Such a vaccine would not prevent infection but might be used to treat patients. The AIDS virus infects at least 33 million people globally and more than a million in the United States. It has killed 25 million people since it was identified in the early 1980s.

New figures show 56,000 people are infected every year in the United States, mostly gay and bisexual men but also injecting drug users and their sexual partners, both male and female, as well as newborns and recipients of contaminated blood transfusions. Both the man and the woman, who are from Baltimore, were diagnosed 10 years ago, Blankson said. The husband is a former injecting drug user.

Tests showed that immune cells known as CD8 T-cells from the wife stalled HIV replication by as much as 90%, while the husband’s T-cells stopped it by only 30%, Blankson’s team reported in the Journal of Virology.

Her virus has also mutated in apparent response to this immune attack, becoming weaker, while her husband’s virus has remained strong. “Elite suppression offers clues to vaccine researchers on many fronts: how CD8 killer T-cells can attack HIV and how a stronger immune response can force HIV into a permanent defensive state,” Blankson said.


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