HIV preferentially infects activated CD4+ T cells and mutates rapidly. The classical vaccine approach aimed to generate broad immune responses to full HIV proteins largely failed to address the potential adverse impact of increased number of activated CD4+ T cells as viral targets. Learning from natural immunity observed in a group of HIV resistant Kenyan female sex workers, we are testing a novel vaccine approach. It focuses immune response to the highly conserved sequences surrounding the HIV protease cleavage sites (PCS) to disrupt viral maturation, while limiting excessive immune activation. Our pilot studies using nonhuman primate SIV infection models suggest that this approach is feasible and promising.
Keywords: HIV; Natural immunity; Nonhuman primate; Protease cleavage sites; Pumwani sex worker cohort; SIV; Vaccine.