Scientists to 'disarm' Aids virus

2011-09-20 07:22

London - Scientists have found a way to prevent HIV from damaging the immune system and say their discovery may offer a new approach to developing a vaccine against Aids.

Researchers from the US and Europe working in laboratories on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) found it is unable to damage the immune system if cholesterol is removed from the virus's membrane.

"It's like an army that has lost its weapons but still has flags, so another army can recognise it and attack it," said Adriano Boasso of Imperial College London, who led the study.

The team now plans to investigate how to use this way of inactivating the virus and possibly develop it into a vaccine.

Usually when a person becomes infected with HIV, the body's innate immune response puts up an immediate defence. But some researchers believe HIV causes the innate immune system to overreact. This weakens the immune system's next line of defence, known as the adaptive immune response.

Limited success

For this study - published on Monday in the journal Blood - Boasso's team removed cholesterol from the membrane around the virus and found that this stopped HIV from triggering the innate immune response. This in turn led to a stronger adaptive response, orchestrated by a type of immune cells called T cells.

Aids kills around 1.8 million people a year worldwide. An estimated 2.6 million people caught HIV in 2009, and 33.3 million people are living with the virus.

Major producers of current HIV drugs include Gilead Bristol Myers Squibb , Merck , Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline .

Scientists from companies, non-profits and governments around the world have been trying for many years to make a vaccine against HIV but have so far had only limited success.

A 2009 study in Thailand involving 16 000 volunteers showed for the first time that a vaccine could prevent HIV infection in a small number of people, but since the efficacy was only around 30% researchers were forced back to the drawing board.

An American team working on an experimental HIV vaccine said in May that it helped monkeys with a form of the Aids virus control the infection for more than a year, suggesting it may lead to a vaccine for people.

HIV is spread in many ways - during sex, on needles shared by drug users, in breast milk and in blood - so there is no single easy way to prevent infection. The virus also mutates quickly and can hide from the immune system, and attacks the very cells sent to battle it.


"HIV is very sneaky," Boasso said in a statement. "It evades the host's defences by triggering overblown responses that damage the immune system. It's like revving your car in first gear for too long - eventually the engine blows out.

He said this may be why developing a vaccine has proven so tricky.

"Most vaccines prime the adaptive response to recognise the invader, but it's hard for this to work if the virus triggers other mechanisms that weaken the adaptive response."

HIV takes its membrane from the cell that it infects, the researchers explained in their study. This membrane contains cholesterol, which helps keep it fluid and enables it to interact with particular types of cell.

Normally, a subset of immune cells called plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) recognise HIV quickly and react by producing signalling molecules called interferons. These signals activate various processes which are initially helpful, but which damage the immune system if switched on for too long.

Working with scientists Johns Hopkins University, the University of Milan and Innsbruck University, Boasso's team found that if cholesterol is removed from HIV's envelope, it can no longer activate pDCs. As a result, T cells, which orchestrate the adaptive response, can fight the virus more effectively.

  • DEVILS SON - 2011-09-20 08:07

    hello over population

      Majozi - 2011-09-20 08:58

      @Martin,you are the really the father of the devil you know that.Kneel down wherever you are a pray that God forgive you...Death is not by illness only,you might not see next month devil.

      TheSkepticDetective - 2011-09-20 09:29

      Well, considering that the Earth's population is very close to 7 Billion, and HIV/AIDS only infects around 33 million people, removing the virus from our population would have a very small effect on the overall population, something like a half of one percent.

      Travis Vermaak - 2011-09-20 10:15

      I reckon the world is already over-populated. Personally I think climate change(not global warming persay) will lead to the downfall of man. I don't think that the earth's resources can sustain its current and growing population for much longer. I reckon we are living in the end times.

      Momus - 2011-09-20 11:30

      That's the best quip you could come up with Devil's Son? Quite a witty chap aren't you....

      DrGreenblood - 2011-09-20 11:55

      Totally agree with jannie. What we need to make this world a better place, is not an INdiscriminate disease like HIV, we need a virus that only targets narrow minded, idiotic pigs, like YOU, Devils_son!

      rantoftheday - 2011-09-20 12:28

      Interesting how people's reactions to an insensitive comment is more insensitive comments.

  • Unskinny Bob - 2011-09-20 08:12

    That is brilliant!

  • Lekabisto - 2011-09-20 08:17

    Give those scientists a Bells!!

  • eric.vanvuuren - 2011-09-20 08:21

    This is by far the best news of the year. Too late for Tony though......

      Captainmorgan - 2011-09-20 10:27

      And Rick & Steve & David & Paul & Barry & Jean & ............

      Krush - 2011-09-20 13:17

      and Sipho..

  • KoolKnifeKid - 2011-09-20 08:24

    This is nature's way of population control. Why cant we try and solve the famine crisis in Africa.....oh cause it is not profitable for America to do that.

      TheSkepticDetective - 2011-09-20 09:31

      Once again, less than a half of one percent of the world's population is living with HIV/AIDS. removing the virus from the population won't really have that big an effect on the overall burden. Removing bigots who think that HIV/AIDS will somehow reduce the population by a significant amount may have a better effect.

  • Errik Swanepoel - 2011-09-20 08:28

    Have these scientists actually isolated the HIV virus, never-mind studied it's makeup? What a lot of nonsense. Yet another 'promising study' designed to attract huge research grants to squander and raise false hope. These 'promising studies' hit the press every couple months and then we never hear about them again. What a sham!

      D van Wyk - 2011-09-20 08:38

      Maybe you should put your PhD in science into practice and show those "idiots" how to do it Errik. The world has been waiting for a hero like you with all your experience in HIV research to give them a cure. I mean, they are trying their best to get a cure, but hey, Erric knows better...

      AndrewG - 2011-09-20 09:14

      Do you actually think before you open your mouth? Of course they have isolated HIV, it was isolated in the early 1980s by Montagnier/Gallo, and yes they've even mapped its genome ( Agree wholeheartedly with D van Wyk above. Ignoramus!

      Lekabisto - 2011-09-20 09:24

      Tell Him D van Wyk, what is Errik doing hiding in News24 forums when he clearly knows better? Errik if you not going to share the HIV cure with the rest of the world please just leave us to enjoy some positive news for a change please.

      Captainmorgan - 2011-09-20 10:31

      Errik is your middle name by any chance , Shin??

      Errik Swanepoel - 2011-09-20 10:54

      HIV has never been properly isolated, nor purified under scientific norms and, consequently, the HIV/AIDS hypothesis is fundamentally flawed. If AIDS were indeed caused by a retrovirus, how can we explain that 20 years of intense research efforts, based exclusively on that single hypothesis, have failed to isolate the responsible exogenous retrovirus? Twenty years to end up with no curative treatment, no vaccine, and no verifiable epidemiological predictions. Recently, a German Court ruled that "HIV Never Has Never Been Isolated".

      Errik Swanepoel - 2011-09-20 11:01

      Neither did Montagnier or Gallo on 4th May 1984 isolate HIV. Neither's research constituted scientific proof of the isolation of a retrovirus, that the virus is exogenous or that the virus is causally related to AIDS. By definition, retroviral particles are enveloped infectious particles 100-120nM in diameter with a core compromising a protein shell and a ribonucleoprotein complex. no such retrovirus were found!

      DeonL - 2011-09-20 11:37

      Errik you are wrong, the virus can be seen and counted. The viral load is how many virusses are counted in a ml. HIV treatment aim to make it undetectable.

      ApexPredator - 2011-09-20 11:42

      Retrovirus...? Like from way back in the '70s!

      Ryan - 2011-09-20 12:09

      @ Andrewg .. Errik doesn't sound like an ignoramus, if you read his other comments. clearly both of you know more about this than me, so I can't say who's right and who's wrong. but even though you both sound knowledgable, one of you is probably wrong.

      AndrewG - 2011-09-20 12:39

      @Errik: Where are you getting your facts from? You trawling the conspiracy theory sites? You really shouldn't believe all the blog articles you read. If you want to take a stance, at least back it up with peer review research, not the opinions of someone on a soap box on the web. There are some opponents to the existence of the virus (principally led by Duesberg), but again, their arguments tend to focus on the relationship between HIV and AIDS, although this argument is thin and, a posteriori, 2 facts are glaringly in opposition to the theory that HIV does not cause AIDS: 1) transmission of AIDS by blood transfusion has disappeared in countries where detection of HIV antibodies in donors has been implemented; 2) Specific inhibitors of the viral enzyme (e.g. reverse transcriptase, protease) has greatly improved clinical conditions of AIDS patients (viral mutations however lead to relapses). The virus has in fact been isolated (HIV-1: Montagnier et al, 1984; HIV-2: Clavel et al, 1986), as well as cloned and sequenced (Alizon et al, 1984, Wain-Hobson et al, 1985; Ratner et al, 1985). In addition to this, researchers are able to obtain virus, e.g. HIV-1MN (CEMx174 T1) and HIV-1Ada (SUPT1-CCR5 CL.30), from institutes such as the AIDS and Cancer Vaccine Program (SAIC-NCI); this is how Boasso et al above can conduct their research. Perhaps you should read articles such as Montagnier, 2010 (Virology; 397(2): 248-254), they may give you a more informed insight

      Errik Swanepoel - 2011-09-20 19:24

      Ah AndrewG - Are you referring to Robert Gallo the historical fraud. he has been found guilty of medical misconduct, with repeated, substantial, public misrepresentations, along with his his colleagues over a period of several years, in scientific journals and in sworn statements. Gallo published an article in Science Magazine in the spring of 1985 claiming that his new virus had been, quote, isolated from a total of 48 subjects, unquote. Under later examination by peers, no trace of those 48 isolates could be found."

      Errik Swanepoel - 2011-09-20 19:37

      And as for Dr Luc Montagnier who you cite as a credible source, has done an about turn in his thinking of AIDS and said this recently "The drug industry pushes ineffective drugs and vaccines because they cannot profit from good nutrition or clean water" and "We can be exposed to HIV many times without being chronically infected… our immune system will get rid of the virus within a few weeks if you have a good immune system." LOL

      Errik Swanepoel - 2011-09-20 19:46

      Let's not even get into the viral load scam. Professor Kary Mullis invented the PRC test, used today to measure so-called 'viral-load'. He has come out in strong condemnation of the medical / scientific community for using his test in the detection of HIV. This guy is no fool, in fact he won the 1993 Nobel Prize for chemistry for PCR so I'll take his word over anyone else when it comes to so-called HIV viral load. He has this to say about HIV - "The vice of PCR is that it can find the biochemical equivalent of a needle in a haystack. Viral fragments that are present only in minute quantities can be amplified and identified, but this tells us nothing about whether replicating virus is present in sufficient quantities to do harm.". Even Roche Diagnostic Systems, the PCR test kit manufacturers state: "The Amplicor HIV-1 Monitor [viral load] test is not intended to be used as a screening test for HIV or as a diagnostic test to confirm the presence of HIV infection."

  • Ruffstuff - 2011-09-20 08:30

    This is wonderful news - the miracle of science engendered by God who has given mankind the intelligence to use all the tools in this world to perpetuate life. The importance of life is sacred to God; demonstrated by sending Jesus to be the Saviour of all mankind. Because of God the scientists were able to put tons and tons of weight flying through the skies daily for man’s benefit and many other miracles. HIV must eventually be eradicated because it is man’s quest to be ahead for mankind’s future

      Foom - 2011-09-20 08:48

      Let me get this straight: God is responsible for scientists curing HIV, and deserves praise, but is not responsible for creating HIV. Those are some serious hoops you're jumping through.

      metsi - 2011-09-20 13:41

      There is no proof of men being in charge of what almighty created accept that men is front of destroying everything that is being created by God. what controls hunger is food/sheep and you will never see food/sheep running after you, but you will make a run after it because it controls you.

      frankm - 2011-09-20 17:55

      We all know HIV was made in a laboratory by the CIA to eradicate Africans. It was not made by God

  • ratex - 2011-09-20 09:15

    What a load of crap. They have always had a cure. AIDS does not nor can it ever exist naturally. This is a man made sythesized disease. The sooner that people realise this, the better. PS. I do not care if the sceptics believe this or not, we all have our own opinions. The development of the AIDS virus was funded in 1969 (three years before the request for development by the World Health Organization) through funds obtained by the United States Defense Department. The Defense Department requested and received $10 million via House Bill 15090,which was reviewed in Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations,House of Representatives during the Ninety-First Congress in review of the Defense Appropriations for 1970. Part Five of H.B. 15090 was entitled RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT,TEST,AND EVALUATION, sponsored by the Department of the Army,the Advanced Research Project Agency (now DARPA), and Defense Research and Engineering.

      Geraldo Mc phu - 2011-09-20 09:53

      My take on this is that if it was man-made , it was not deliberate , probably something went horribly wrong in the laboratory and unleashed this monster ,This was kept a secrete . Just as penicilling was an accidental discovery so was HIV . Be that as it may , big ups to the men and women who spend sleepless nights trying to come up with a cure fot this...

      AndrewG - 2011-09-20 10:40

      AIDS isn't a virus it is a disease/syndrome (acquired immune deficiency SYNDROME), the causal agent the the retrovirus HIV...

      Grunk - 2011-09-20 11:09

      Ratex, you have as much faith in the US as I have. I wouldn't put it past them - after all the first diagnosed cases turned up - somehow from the depths of the African jungles - in the States. (Yes, I am a conspiracy theorist when it comes to anything US - after all it's history in such matters has been eventually proven time after time).

      TheSkepticDetective - 2011-09-20 14:08

      Are you telling us that humans also engineered feline and simian immunodeficiency viruses too?

  • Geraldo Mc phu - 2011-09-20 09:46

    They should just make sure that after removing the cholesterol , they should not led the virus get exposed to junk food , lest it regains the cholesterol and attack again ...

  • JournAids - 2011-09-20 10:37

    Just a comment on some technical errors in this otherwise informative article. The headline refers to an 'Aids virus', which actually does not exist. HIV is the virus which causes AIDS which is in fact a syndrome, i.e. a collection of different conditions which indicate the existence of a particular condition, in this case HIV infection. HIV and AIDS cannot be used interchangeably because they are not the same thing. Being HIV-positive does not mean you have AIDS. While this might seem pedantic the way the media writes about the HIV epidemic has concrete implications for how much the public knows about HIV and how people perceive the condition and those living with it. 'AIDS' is associated with unavoidable, impending death, which is not always the case, especially in contexts where people can access ARVs. The HIV terminology used by the media should reflect the progress made in addressing HIV. And in this day and age AIDS is actually a term which should be avoided because we now have the means to control HIV infection so that it does not progress to the most severe stage of infection (AIDS). Therefore unless we are talking about people who have untreated HIV infection who then develop AIDS, the term should be avoided. For more on HIV and media reporting see

      JJ Retief - 2011-09-20 11:41

      I agree. You would expect a journalist to research an article before publishing. Type HIV or AIDS in google and you immediately get told the story. Apparently this is too much effort.

      TheSkepticDetective - 2011-09-20 14:06

      I agree with most of what you say, but if you refer to the "AIDS virus", there is little danger that I might think you are referring to any virus other than HIV.

  • antifaggs - 2011-09-20 12:35 you know what mathematical progression is ? apply it on 33 mil....come back to me with the result

      TheSkepticDetective - 2011-09-20 14:04

      yes, I do. But I don't know how you would have us apply one to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Please, do elucidate your position.

  • suther7 - 2011-09-21 00:43

    We need make individual Aids vaccine. The vaccine should be based upon killed Aids Virus similar to the vaccine Salk created for polio and Pasteur did for rabies. The Aids Virus can be harvested by using a dialysis manchine to take whole blood from Aids patients. A centrifuge can the separate the Aids Virus from the blood and plasma, leaving the water portion of the the whole blood with the Aids Virus. Exposure to radiation or ultra violet light will kill the Aids Virus. The radiation or ultra violet light will cause the elctrons in the Aids Virus to jump to a new orbit thus killing the Aids Virus. The radiation or ultra violet light may alter the nuclear spin of the elements inside the Aids Virus and also killing the virus that way. The most important part of this treatment is not to kill too many antibodies. Heat will also kill the Aids Virus but may alter the Aids Virus. The other safe way to kill the Aids Virus is to use alcohol and use a centrifuge to separate the alcohol and Aids Virus so the alcohol can be reused. There are other chemical compounds to use but they may also alter the Aids Virus. The vaccine based upon the dead virus will allow the body's own system to build up its own antibodiesto protect people from the Aids Virus and possible to cure them of Aids just as Louis Pasteur did for people infected by rabies. Have more to say but ran out of characters.

      TheSkepticDetective - 2011-09-21 06:52

      I think if it was that simple, someone would have done it and won the Nobel Prize for medicine already.

  • Antonio - 2012-01-24 12:59


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