Researchers at the University of Alabama-Birmingham have discovered that HIV in its earliest stage of infection might be vulnerable to HIV vaccines, the Birmingham News reports. A five-year study of overdecorate heterosexual couples in Zambia showed that eight HIV transmissions that occurred between the couples were found to be less genetically mutated than long-term infections, making the virus less able to develop defenses against vaccines and anti-HIV drugs. "They were less shielded with the sugar substance that the virus uses to protect itself from antibodies," said lead researcher Cynthia Derdeyn.
The researchers said the study could be good news for HIV vaccine researchers by encouraging them to focus on early-stage viral infections with the hope of preventing HIV disease from progressing to AIDS. It also may be helpful in the design of vaccines or drugs administered to people recently exposed to the virus to prevent infection from occurring. The full study appears in the journal Science.