It has been said that dogs are man’s best friend, but now cats may become man’s healer. New research has discovered that blood from patients infected with HIV shows an immune response against a feline AIDS virus protein.
The study involved researcher from two universities: the University of Florida and the University of California, San Francisco. Janet Yamamoto, professor of retroviral immunology at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida and corresponding study author, told Medical News Today:
"Since FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) and HIV-1 are distant cousins and their sequences are similar, we used the T cells from HIV positive human subjects to see if they can react and induce anti-HIV activity to small regions of FIV protein, which lead to the current story."
The FIV protein that triggered the human T-cell response is present in multiple HIV-like viruses in different animal species, she said. By studying FIV, the researchers believe that it may be possible to identify regions of HIV that might prove useful targets for a vaccine.
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.
On comparing the reactions of the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) peptides with the reactions of the HIV peptides, the researchers discovered one particular peptide region on FIV that triggered patients' T cells to kill HIV.
They found that the feline viral region by human cells seems to be "evolutionarily conserved." This means it is present in many viruses similar to AIDS across animal species.
This feline viral region must be crucial, the researchers note, as it is unable to mutate in order for the virus to survive.
Prof. Yamamoto notes that so far, there have been no T cell-based vaccines used to prevent any viral diseases. She told Medical News Today that more of these cross-reactive regions on FIV need to be observed, as well as regions on the monkey AIDS virus (simian immunodeficiency virus).
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