Traditional successful antiviral vaccines have relied mostly on live-attenuated viruses. Live-attenuated HIV vaccine candidates are not ideal as they pose risks of reversion, recombination or mutations. Other current HIV vaccine candidates have difficulties generating broadly effective neutralising antibodies and cytotoxic T cell immune responses to primary HIV isolates. Virus-like-particles (VLPs) have been demonstrated to be safe to administer to animals and human patients as well as being potent and efficient stimulators of cellular and humoral immune responses. Therefore, VLPs are being considered as possible HIV vaccines. Chimeric HIV-1 VLPs constructed with either HIV or SIV capsid protein plus HIV immune epitopes and immuno-stimulatory molecules have further improved on early VLP designs, leading to enhanced immune stimulation. The administration of VLP vaccines via mucosal surfaces has also emerged as a promising strategy with which to elicit mucosal and systemic humoral and cellular immune responses. Additionally, new information on antigen processing and the presentation of particulate antigens by dendritic cells (DCs) has created new strategies for improved VLP vaccine candidates. This paper reviews the field of HIV-1 VLP vaccine development, focusing on recent studies that will likely uncover promising prospects for new HIV vaccines.
Copyright 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.