An international team of researchers have identified more than 15 proteins in Kenyan sex workers that appear to be markers for natural immunity to HIV infection.
The team, from the University of Manitoba and the National Microbiology Laboratory in Canada, and the University of Nairobi in Kenya, collected and analyzed samples of vaginal fluids from women in the sex trade who had been exposed to the virus. Some of these women appear to be resistant to HIV infection and have been active in sex work for several years but had not shown any sign of infection. Samples from ten resistant women were compared with those from ten other female sex workers who were infected, as well as samples from a control group of women not involved in prostitution.
The researchers found eight proteins to be much more abundant in the women apparently resistant to HIV. These proteins have been noted to have anti-viral properties or anti-inflammatory abilities to help prevent infection by the virus. Additional proteins were found to be diminished in HIV-resistant women.
“We’re excited by this result,” says Dr. Blake Ball in the department of medical microbiology within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba. “A few proteins had been previously connected to HIV immunity, but these 15 that have been discovered represent a significant step in identifying biomarkers for HIV immunity.”
Ball notes that HIV infection in Kenya is extremely high, and the sex workers there are constantly exposed to infection. Yet a small group of sex workers manage to remain infection-free.
“These biomarkers may eventually lead researchers towards a vaccine or treatment against HIV infection,” Ball notes.
The research partnership between the University of Manitoba and the University of Nairobi began in 1980, and has become one of the world’s leading HIV/AIDS research programs, providing new prevention and control strategies now used internationally.
The research was published today in the Journal of Proteome Research.
For more information, contact Dr. Blake Ball, medical microbiology, University of Manitoba, at: 204-789-3202, or email: email@example.com