Cytomegalovirus is one of those ubiquitous viruses. Pretty much everyone on Earth is infected with it, and if you arent, you probably will be at some point in your life.

Some scientists got the idea to use CMV as a gene delivery system for HIV-1– ‘Infecting’ cells with ‘HIV’ without actually infecting cells with HIV, meaning ‘CMV/HIV infected’ cells express HIV proteins and train the immune system to respond to an HIV infection, in the absence of actual HIV.

Profound early control of highly pathogenic SIV by an effector memory T-cell vaccine

This vaccine trained macaques Cytotoxic T-cells to respond to SIVs pirate flags on SIV infected cells. The vaccine was able to limit infection of a highly pathogenic form of SIV in about half the macaques (the macaques were infected, but it seems they controlled the initial infection, well, half of them). Even better– even though all the macaques were previously infected with CMV (like basically every human), the CMV vector was able to work just fine. There was a chance preexisting immunity to CMV would have messed the system up, either not letting it work at all, or making infections worse (this was tried previously in humans with an Ad5 vector, and there were some initial indications that people previously exposed to Ad5 naturally had an increased risk of acquiring HIV. I think those odds evened out to nothing, but it was scary there for a sec). Hurray!

While this paper is very cool, and it is a new approach to an old idea (with an HIV vaccine, especially a CTL-based vaccine, Ill take all the new ideas people can come up with), the study is limited and preliminary.

They vaccinated with one variant of SIV. They challenged with the same variant. The problem is not protecting humans (macaques?) from the same thing that we put in the vaccine. We know we can do that. The problem is figuring out what to put in a vaccine that protects humans from the billions and billions and billions of HIV variants they might be exposed to in the real world.

So again, I want to emphasize this research is cool… but we havent ‘cured’ HIV/AIDS yet.


  1. #1 Russell
    May 16, 2011

    Some of us strangely seem not to pick up CMV. Or EB. Not for lack of trying. Makes the blood bank happy.

  2. #2 JohnV
    May 16, 2011

    I’m a loser so I’m CMV-. And yeah, the red cross loves me.

  3. #3 Grant
    May 17, 2011

    I know you’ll have already seen this, but I’m just going to egg you on anyway: how about writing about doggie ERVs?:

    I’ve got a soft take on this I’m writing up. (I don’t know ERVs the way you will so I can’t do more than a soft take!) A dumb space limitation at sciblogs is blocking me from finishing it. (Grrrr.) So, in the meantime I might as well let you know, on the unlikely chance you didn’t already 🙂

    FWIW, the dog genome used is a boxer, too 🙂 This article really does seem made for you to review 😉

  4. #4 Mike Caton
    May 17, 2011

    Dear Ms. ERV: long-time reader here. I have long awaited the day that my medical school got around to teaching us about retroviruses so I would know what you were kvetching about with respect to chronic fatigue syndrome. I now sort of do (it was basically all in 1 lecture). Finally!

    But what’s more interesting is that our education all seems to focus on this “evilution” as the central principle of biology; as they’re teaching us how to treat sick people, nowhere do they talk about creationism. If I woke up tomorrow as a creationist, assuming I didn’t immediately kill myself, the thing that would most trouble me most is that I would then have to believe biomedical institutions around the world were based on the theory of evilution and this has to be degrading the quality of research and treatment for all disease!

    Yet oddly, I’ve never ONCE heard this concern expressed. In fact it only seems to be evilutionists that are trying to figure out what’s going on with disease and try to fix it. Makes you wonder what the IDiots’ real interests are, since they’re obviously not about expanding knowledge to eliminate suffering.

  5. #5 IR
    May 18, 2011

    Cool, a post about CMV!

    I was CMV- until I was transplanted with CMV+ lungs. The virus is normally harmless, but in immunocompromised people and other at risk populations, it can be a problem. I myself have not had any serious issues as a result, but am curious about whether a future vaccine would be available to this population.

    I receive the influenza every year, though there is still not definitive evidence that immunocompromised patients are able to mount a sufficient response for the vaccine to be effective. With so many asshats who could be vaccinated and choose not to, I’ll follow the advice of the CDC until we discover a clearer answer. In the case of influenza, fifteen bucks a year for possibly gaining real protection against something that poses a serious threat to me with an incredibly minute chance of harm? Absolutely.

  6. #6 Anke
    March 8, 2012

    Not almost everyone is infected with CMV. 40-80% of the worldpopulation is infected with CMV, depending on the country and age. But almost 95% are infected with EBV.

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