Research ArticleHIV

Exposure to SIV in utero results in reduced viral loads and altered responsiveness to postnatal challenge

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Science Translational Medicine  12 Aug 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 300, pp. 300ra125
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aac5547

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Getting an early start in HIV protection

HIV disease is characterized by a state of chronic immune activation that appears to contribute to the dysfunction of the immune system. Control of immune activation in infected patients may help to protect against immune dysfunction and delay the progression of the disease. In a new study, Baker et al. exposed fetal rhesus macaques to simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a close relative of HIV, during a prenatal period, hypothesizing that this would cause the macaque’s immune system to become less reactive to, or tolerant of, material derived from SIV. When experimentally infected after birth, the authors hypothesized that exposed macaques might mount less aggressive immune responses against the virus, have lower immune activation, and may have less severe disease than unexposed animals. They found that macaques exposed to SIV in utero did not display any direct evidence of tolerance to SIV; however, the animals did have significantly lower viral loads after infection and altered immune responses that were associated with the control of viral replication. This study supports a new avenue for HIV vaccine design.