USIS Washington File - June 20, 2006
Washington � Researchers from the United States, Europe and
Australia are going to pool their access to patient groups in a
large-scale analysis of HIV infected patients, hoping the shared
knowledge will lead them to a better understanding of the body's
response to the virus.
Led by scientists at North Carolina's Duke University, the
collaboration announced June 20 will try to find out what the
body's immune system is really doing during HIV infection, and
try to use that knowledge to produce an effective vaccine. Of
special interest are those rare HIV-infected individuals who
control infection on their own, whose systems may provide a
critical clue in vaccine development.
The work is led by the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology
(CHAVI), established at Duke with a multimillion-dollar grant
from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases
(NIAID), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a
federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research.
"We intend to use natural genetic differences among people to
point the way toward the most promising avenue for vaccine
development," said David Goldstein, director of CHAVI's genetic
research. "We wanted to find out why some people naturally hold
the virus down to almost undetectable levels while others lose
control of it quickly."
The collaborators in EuroCHAVI, as the new effort is known, will
be working to understand what genetic influences might cause the
widely varying immune responses that individuals have after HIV
infection, and the differences in susceptibility to infection.
The nine research groups involved in EuroCHAVI will recruit 600
HIV-infected patients from different countries and then use
state-of-the-art genome technology to analyze the genetic factors
that contribute to disease.
In a briefing conducted earlier this month, NIAID Director
Anthony Fauci explained that the HIV virus "has an uncanny
ability to elude the immune system under natural circumstances,
which has made it very difficult to develop a vaccine."
Fauci made the remarks as the medical community noted the 25th
anniversary of the first report of an unusual disease that would
later come to be recognized as HIV/AIDS. (See related article.)
EuroCHAVI collaborators include the Swiss HIV cohort; the
IRSICaixa study and the Clinic Hospital cohort in Spain; the
Danish HIV cohort; the Perth-Western Australia cohort; the Modena
cohort and the San Raffaele Scientific Institute cohort in Italy;
the German National Competence Network for HIV/AIDS; and the
Guy's, King's College and St. Thomas' Hospitals study in the
United Kingdom. The University of Geneva, the Swiss Federal
Institute of Technology in Lausanne and the University of
Ioannina in Greece will partner as analytical centers.
A Duke University press release on the collaboration is available
on the EurekAlert Web site, a global news service operated by the
American Association for the Advancement of Science.
For information on U.S. policies and programs, see HIV/AIDS.