The body responds to infectious agents such as bacteria and viruses by identifying proteins that are specific to these agents, known as epitopes, and using them to generate immune cells that will selectively recognize and destroy infected cells.
HIV escapes immune detection by accumulating mutations in epitopes that are recognized by T cells, a type of immune cell that can kill virus-infected cells.
These mutations prevent T cell recognition and allow the virus to survive. In the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers led by Nilu Goonetilleke at Oxford University measured T cell responses in 17 patients during different stages of HIV-1 infection.
These studies allowed Goonetilleke and colleagues to correlate T cell responses with the length of time it took the virus to escape immune detection and provide insight into how T cells respond to and influence HIV during the early stages of infection.
The results of these studies may have implications for HIV vaccine design.
TITLE: Vertical T cell immunodominance and epitope entropy determine HIV-1 escape