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AIDS: even in vivo, evolution persists.

AIDS: Even in vivo, evolution persists

The AIDS virus, HIV-1, is notorious for its ability to mutate rapidly, making it a difficult, "moving target" for scientists trying to develop an effective AIDS vaccine. New research reported in the Aug. 4 NATURE provides a genetic explanation for some of the clinical complexity of AIDS infection, and supports previous findings that rapid and significant HIV-1 mutation may be rampant within individuals even after initial infection (SN: 4/9/88, p.232).

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Miami (Fla.) School of Medicine cloned and analyzed the genetic makeup of AIDS viruses isolated from two infected patients over a 16-month period. In 3 samples, they found 17, 9 and 13 distinguishable varieties of the virus. The limited degree of difference among the varieties suggests the viral variants evolved after the patients were first infected.

"The results indicate that HIV-1 variation . . . is rapid, that a remarkably large number of related but distinguishable genotypic variants evolve in parallel and coexist during chronic infection, and that 'isolates' of HIV-1 . . . consist of complex mixtures of genotypically distinguishable viruses," the researchers say.

Related work by the Alabama researchers in collaboration with scientists at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington, D.C., indicates different HIV-1 clones may prefer to infect different types of white blood cells. This may account for the heretofore unexplained variation in HIV infectivity of T-cells and monocyte-macrophages.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 13, 1988
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