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Biotech Science

Scientists Expose Weak DNA in HIV 196

Ace905 writes "The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced Thursday that they had discovered a very promising 'weak spot' in the HIV virus. The HIV virus, a progenitor to full blown AIDS has eluded all attempts at a vaccine since it was discovered sometime in the 1970's. The major problem with developing a vaccine initially was isolating the virus. Conventional viruses are often defeated with existing drugs, or after being tested against new compounds. HIV has been unique, and staggering in it's ability to resist all attempts at treatment by mutating its own genetic code. HIV is able to resist, with great effectiveness, any drug or combination drug-therapy that is used against it."
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Scientists Expose Weak DNA in HIV

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  • by Gufry ( 803129 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @11:50AM (#18051524)
    The story that is referenced in the BBC news article refers to the structure of an antibody binding the gp120 surface glycoprotein of HIV. This has nothing to do with 'weak' DNA. The reason why this is exciting is that the b12 region is relatively invariable, whereas most antibodies made against HIV bind variable regions of the surface glycoproteins that are prone to change from virus to virus as the genome is mutated. The majority of anti-HIV antibodies are therefore only useful against specific isolates and can be easily escaped by mutation. Antibodies against the b12 region are therefore potential vaccine candidates.
  • Fact check? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yellowstone ( 62484 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @11:59AM (#18051618) Homepage Journal

    The HIV virus [...] was discovered sometime in the 1970's
    The first case of AIDS was reported in 1981; the HIV virus was discovered in 1983 (reference [nih.gov]) One day you kids will learn all those super-secret ways of finding stuff on teh intraweb [google.com]...
  • what BS... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:07PM (#18051698)
    Conventional viruses are often defeated with existing drugs, or after being tested against new compounds

    Not at all. Viruses are extremely, extremely difficult to defeat. There is a reason cold & flu are still around.

    How many drugs are effective against viruses? Very, very few.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:28PM (#18051884)
    Yeah, pretending that HIV "does" things intentionally to avoid vaccination is highly misleading. The problem is that viruses in general replicate quickly, and HIV in particular mutates very quickly from one generation to the next, while remaining viable. This lets an infection explore the parameter space of possible genotypes very fast. To be effective, a treatment needs to target some relatively stable feature of the virus, and eliminate the virus faster than the population can mutate away from that vulnerability. Unfortunately, HIV usually wins on both counts.
  • by Foamy ( 29271 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @01:26PM (#18052358)
    When it comes to reporting on biological sciences, I trust my dog Fido more than I trust the BBC.

    1. The BBC article linked says nothing about HIV being discovered in the 1970. RTFA.

    2. HIV was discovered in the 1983/1984 timeframe. Who discovered it first is the basis of a long standing dispute between Robert Gallo and Luc Montagnier. Google it.
  • Re:what BS... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @02:25PM (#18052952)
    So how much has the life expectancy of an HIV+ individual increased since the use of combination antiviral drug therapy?

          Life expectancy has increased a great deal, with one catch. You need 98% compliance to the treatment regimen. Be sure not to miss too many doses either now or 20 years from now, or you WILL develop AIDS.

    why are governments around the world scrambling to stockpile tamiflu?

          Because a drowning man will clutch at a straw, and it's better to be seen doing "something" than doing "nothing". Tamiflu is not particularly effective against H5N1 influenza.
  • by Mutatis Mutandis ( 921530 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @02:31PM (#18052998)

    Only wish you were not serious, but sadly, apparently you are. Which raises the question how people actually can believe such utter and complete nonsense?

    The HIV virus has not been seen by the eye or by light microscopy, as it is only 110 to 140 nanometer in diameter and below practical optical resolution. Although a group at the university of Chicago has been able to visualize something of its behavior by fluorescently tagging it. Of course then it is just a bright dot. However, HIV has been visualized numerous times by electron microscopy, both transmission EM and scanning EM. We also have structures of many of the proteins that constitute the HIV virus, from X-ray crystallography. There are still gaps in our knowledge of the structure of HIV, but in fact it is now much better documented than many other viruses. We also have tens of thousands of genome sequences, partial or whole, of the HIV virus.

    We know that HIV causes AIDS. We know that drugs that block the replication cycle of HIV can prevent AIDS, at least for some years. We know how many of these drugs dock on the proteins of HIV. We know how the virus can develop resistance to these drugs, because we can find the patterns in the genome of the virus. We can predict a patient's future health by studying the genome of the virus. We know what mutations in which locations on which proteins are responsible for resistance. We know that if you give drugs with better profile against resistant viruses to people who have failed treatment, they can suppress the symptoms of AIDS. We know that amount of viruses and of CD4 positive immune cells that are destroyed by HIV, correlates with a patient's health. We know why a few lucky people can carry HIV for a long time without developing AIDS, and which mutations in the human genome are responsible for that. By now, HIV must nearly be the best characterized of all human viruses, although it is a difficult target.

    So please, please, refrain from repeating a myth. This is not just some innocent scientific confusion. Ultimately, stories like this do have the potential to kill people, and if you repeat them, you are making yourself an accessory to murder.

  • by Gary W. Longsine ( 124661 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @03:27PM (#18053476) Homepage Journal
    Regarding your 2nd point, and your "err, 1983/84", please allow me to disambiguate.

    The Wikipedia article refers to the discovery of AIDS, which is the modern label applied to the clusters of disease cases with similar histories and symptoms which first identified (apparently) in 1981, although it seems some doctors and researchers were aware of unusual disease clusters for a few years leading up to that point. Recognition of AIDS as a disease led to researchers looking for a cause, which led to the subsequent discovery of the HIV virus. In any case, all of this activity took place in the 1980s within a few years, not "sometime in the 1970's".

    This page includes some audio clips from interviews with some of the researchers: NIH researchers discuss the history of AIDS [nih.gov].

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