Montreal researchers discover why some prostitutes evade HIV
Thanks to a Canadian research team, more evidence is emerging about why some African prostitutes manage to escape HIV infection despite repeated exposures to the virus. The Montreal group’s findings could point to new avenues for developing a possible HIV vaccine or anti-microbials, they say.
It was a lucky subset of sex workers in Nairobi who first came to the attention of researchers years ago, staying free of infection in a country where more than 7% of the population is HIV-positive. Scientists from the University of Manitoba and the Public Health Agency of Canada have identified 15 proteins unique to those virus-free prostitutes.
Meanwhile, a University of Montreal team headed by Dr. Michel Roger examined women in Benin and Zimbabwe, also nations with high rates of infection. Their intriguing finding, recently published in the journal PLOS One, is that the women seemingly resistant to HIV had a weak inflammatory response to the virus specifically in their vaginas.
They found that the the immune response was quite different in the women’s blood, suggesting it would be more effective to develop a vaccine that blocked the virus at its entry point to the body, rather than once already established.
Said Dr. Roger in a news release:
- AIDS vaccination research has entirely focused on the blood stream and this approach has been a failure.
- Our research shows that the immune response is different at the site of the infection, and that we should turn to the entry points in order to find a means for blocking the virus.
- A vaccination of this kind could be administered via the nose and would immunize all mucus membranes in the body, he said.