By Sherry L. Granader
Scientists have been on a mission to find an HIV vaccine and have discovered a link to cats in the process. When human blood of an HIV-positive person is exposed to a protein from the blood of a feline with the virus, it triggers an immune response in the body. Certain peptides of the feline AIDS virus fight the HIV virus by producing human T cells as reported by the University of Florida.
Further research is needed to create the first effective vaccine for HIV in people. It has been difficult to find a successful HIV vaccine simply because no one was able to determine which part of HIV to combine in order to produce a winning vaccine. It turns out the FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) protein is the missing link to the solution. The Journal of Virology goes into the findings more thoroughly to support further investigation of a human AIDS virus derived from the feline form of the virus.
Currently, a T-cell based vaccine is being studied against HIV that activates an immune response against the AIDS virus in cats by the T-cells from individuals that are positive for HIV. T-cell peptides are small pieces of protein that cause T-cells to recognize the peptides with the virus on infected cells, prompting anti-viral activity, however not all peptides work as a part of a vaccine.
Some peptides stimulate an immune response that can have no effect at all or enhance the HIV infections. Still others can be lost altogether when the virus mutates or changes so scientists are looking for the viral peptides in cats with the AIDS virus that do not mutate and can create an anti-HIV T-cell. In the past, scientists were able to combine a variety of HIV proteins for a vaccine but none of them worked properly for commercial use.
The good news is that scientists were able to find certain peptides in the FIV virus work well at producing T-cells in humans that fight HIV. They isolated T-cells from individuals with HIV with different peptides that are critical for the survival of both feline and human AIDS viruses and compared those reactions with the FIV peptides and HIV peptides.
One area of the FIV peptide activated T-cells in patients with HIV and killed the virus. It turns out that the feline viral region recognized by human cells appears to be well maintained and is present in multiple AIDS-like viruses through many animal species. This means that it must be an area so fundamentally vital that is simply can’t mutate so the virus survives.
The feline AIDS virus (FIV) can be utilized to recognize and distinguish regions of the AIDS virus in humans to develop a strategy for a development of an HIV vaccine. The FIV virus in cats looks like the HIV virus in humans and therefore reactions and findings can be observed. Up to this point in time, a vaccine based on T-cells has not been used to prevent viral diseases. It is definitely unique to use the FIV virus in cats to employ a different approach to the immune system to make an effective vaccine.
Reviewed and approved by Dr. David L. Roberts, DVM
Photo: Courtesy of Cássia Afini via Flickr (CC by 2.0)