Breakthrough by Vancouver scientists could lead to HIV vaccine

Vancouver scientists have made a discovery that breaks through HIV's cloaking device, which allows the virus to go undetected by the immune system, in a development that could result in a vaccine.

Researchers at Simon Fraser University examined a species of bacteria with similar properties to HIV. The scientists discovered sugar molecules found on the bacteria that closely resemble those found on HIV that prevent immune systems from detecting the virus, 24 Hours Vancouver reports.

The next step in the process is to find a suitable protein that allows vaccines to trigger a person's immune system earlier, priming it to fight the virus.

"Two known proteins, tetanus toxoid and CRM197...are commonly used to develop these kinds of vaccines," Ralph Pantophlet, an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University, said, according to 24 Hours Vancouver. "So a lot of the groundwork is there for us to be able to have a vaccine that could be tested in a lab first, and then in clinical trials later."

The Rhizobium radiobacter bacteria that was used in the research is known to cause tumors in the roots of particular plants. Understanding the immune-hiding sugar molecules on the bacteria could allow scientists to create a vaccine that would allow immune systems to recognize HIV weeks earlier than before.

The university looks to continue the development by getting grant money from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.