Various studies have been conducted on how our pets can help our health in holistic ways ranging from alleviating anxiety to providing companionship. Now, however, researchers have discovered that cats just might provide the key to a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccine, reported Medical News Today on October 4.
Blood from patients infected with HIV reveals an immune response against a feline AIDS virus protein, revealed researchers from the University of Florida and the University of California, San Francisco.
"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 led to the current story," explained Janet Yamamoto, professor of retroviral immunology at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida and corresponding study author.
To pursue their hope of developing an HIV vaccine, the researchers are working on a T cell-based HIV vaccine that activates an immune response in T cells from humans against the feline acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) virus.
"We had difficulty in identifying ways to select regions on HIV-1 for HIV-1 vaccine. Our work shows how to select the viral regions for HIV-1 vaccine. The regions on FIV or their counterpart on HIV-1 that have anti-HIV T cell activities can be used as a component for human HIV-1 vaccine," revealed Professor Yamamoto.
However, as their study progressed, they now think that the feline AIDS virus could be utilized to discover areas of the human AIDS virus. In turn, this discovery could result in a new vaccine-development strategy for HIV.
"We are now employing an immune system approach that has not been typically utilized to make a vaccine. The possible use of the cat virus for this vaccine is unique," stated Professor Yamamoto.
Dr. Jay A. Levy, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and study author, emphasized that their discovery does not indicate that the feline AIDS virus infects humans.
"Rather," he adds, "the cat virus resembles the human virus sufficiently so that this cross-reaction can be observed."