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AIDS Virus in Cats Could Help Human Vaccine Effort

Update Date: Oct 04, 2013 09:40 AM EDT

Cats might be the savior for people with positive HIV, a new study suggests. The carnivorous mammal may hold a key to developing an HIV vaccine for people.

New research reveals that the virus that causes AIDS in cats triggers an immune response in blood from HIV-infected people. The virus that affects cats is called the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

The findings, which are reported in the October issue of Journal of Virology, suggest further research with FIV could lead to a HIV vaccine.

“One major reason why there has been no successful HIV vaccine to date is that we do not know which parts of HIV to combine to produce the most effective vaccine,” study corresponding author Janet Yamamoto, a professor of retroviral immunology at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, said in a university news release.

In previous attempts, scientists have combined various whole HIV proteins as vaccine ingredients but none worked well, she explained.

“Surprisingly, we have found that certain peptides of the feline AIDS virus can work exceptionally well at producing human T-cells that fight against HIV,” Yamamoto also said.

The FIV proteins that triggered the human T-cell response is also present in multiple HIV-like viruses in other animal species as well.

However, one researcher emphasized that different viruses affect people and cats.

“We want to stress that our findings do not mean that the feline AIDS virus infects humans, but rather that the cat virus resembles the human virus sufficiently so that this cross-reaction can be observed,” study co-author Dr. Jay Levy, a professor of medicine at UCSF, said in the news release.

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