Endogenous retrovirus (ERV) genomes integrated into the chromosomal DNA of the host were first detected in chickens and mice as Mendelian determinants of Gag and Env proteins and of the release of infectious virus particles. The presence of ERV was confirmed by DNA hybridization. With complete host genomes available for analysis, we can now see the great extent of viral invasion into the genomes of numerous vertebrate species, including humans. ERVs are found at many loci in host DNA and also in the genomes of large DNA viruses, such as herpesviruses and poxviruses. The evolution of xenotropism and cross-species infection is discussed in the light of the dynamic relationship between exogenous and endogenous retroviruses.
retrovirus; Mendelian inheritance; germ-line infection; receptors; tropism
McCoy and Weiss discuss the generation of neutralizing antibodies to HIV induced by immunization.
Most neutralizing antibodies act at the earliest steps of viral infection and block interaction of the virus with cellular receptors to prevent entry into host cells. The inability to induce neutralizing antibodies to HIV has been a major obstacle to HIV vaccine research since the early days of the epidemic. However, in the past three years, the definition of a neutralizing antibody against HIV has been revolutionized by the isolation of extremely broad and potent neutralizing antibodies from HIV-infected individuals. Considerable hurdles remain for inducing neutralizing antibodies to a protective level after immunization. Meanwhile, novel technologies to bypass the induction of antibodies are being explored to provide prophylactic antibody-based interventions. This review addresses the challenge of inducing HIV neutralizing antibodies upon immunization and considers notable recent advances in the field. A greater understanding of the successes and failures for inducing a neutralizing response upon immunization is required to accelerate the development of an effective HIV vaccine.
Early neuroimaging studies using Cyberball suggested that social rejection activated the pain matrix, as identified in studies of physical pain. However, these early studies were characterized by small sample sizes. Our statistical multi-level kernel density analysis (MKDA) of Cyberball neuroimaging studies with 244 participants fails to support the claim that social rejection operates on the same pain matrix as nociceptive stimuli, questioning whether social pain is more figurative or literal. We also performed an MKDA of the neuroimaging studies of reliving a romantic rejection to test whether the pain matrix was activated if the rejection were more meaningful. Results again failed to support the notion that rejection activates the neural matrix identified in studies of physical pain. Reliving an unwanted rejection by a romantic partner was significantly characterized by activation within and beyond the “Cyberball” brain network, suggesting that the neural correlates of social pain are more complex than previously thought.
During 30 years of research on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), our knowledge of its cellular receptors - CD4, CCR5 and CXCR4 - has illuminated aspects of the pathogenesis of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Studying how the HIV envelope glycoproteins interact with the receptors led to anti-retroviral drugs based on blocking the docking or fusion of virus to the host cell. Genetic polymorphisms of CCR5 determine resistance to HIV infection and the rate of progression to AIDS. Eliciting neutralizing antibodies to the sites of receptor interaction on HIV glycoproteins is a promising approach to HIV vaccine development.
AIDS; HIV; cell receptors; CD4; CCR5; CXCR4; Therapy
The membrane proximal external region (MPER) of the HIV-1 glycoprotein gp41 is targeted by the broadly neutralizing antibodies 2F5 and 4E10. To date, no immunization regimen in animals or humans has produced HIV-1 neutralizing MPER-specific antibodies. We immunized llamas with gp41-MPER proteoliposomes and selected a MPER-specific single chain antibody (VHH), 2H10, whose epitope overlaps with that of mAb 2F5. Bi-2H10, a bivalent form of 2H10, which displayed an approximately 20-fold increased affinity compared to the monovalent 2H10, neutralized various sensitive and resistant HIV-1 strains, as well as SHIV strains in TZM-bl cells. X-ray and NMR analyses combined with mutagenesis and modeling revealed that 2H10 recognizes its gp41 epitope in a helical conformation. Notably, tryptophan 100 at the tip of the long CDR3 is not required for gp41 interaction but essential for neutralization. Thus bi-2H10 is an anti-MPER antibody generated by immunization that requires hydrophobic CDR3 determinants in addition to epitope recognition for neutralization similar to the mode of neutralization employed by mAbs 2F5 and 4E10.
Due to the absence of an effective vaccine or cure for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), HIV-1 infections still result in high mortality. Two antibodies, 2F5 and 4E10, previously isolated from HIV-1 infected patients, prevent infections by binding to the MPER of gp41, a part of the virus that is difficult to access and only transiently exposed. Here, we immunized llamas with a gp41-based immunogen and subsequently isolated a small antibody fragment (VHH) that can easily access and recognize the MPER. We showed that a unit of two VHH, named bi-2H10, was indeed capable of preventing HIV-1 from infecting cells. We determined the three dimensional structure of the VHH and mapped its interaction site to an MPER region that overlaps with the 2F5 epitope. The 2H10 VHH displays a membrane binding component important for neutralization that resembles that of 2F5. In conclusion, we have developed an immunogen and a small antibody that may have great potential for development of novel anti-HIV/AIDS vaccines and treatments.
A heavy chain–only antibody isolated from a llama repeatedly immunized with trimeric HIV-1 Env neutralizes 96% of tested HIV-1 strains.
Llamas (Lama glama) naturally produce heavy chain–only antibodies (Abs) in addition to conventional Abs. The variable regions (VHH) in these heavy chain–only Abs demonstrate comparable affinity and specificity for antigens to conventional immunoglobulins despite their much smaller size. To date, immunizations in humans and animal models have yielded only Abs with limited ability to neutralize HIV-1. In this study, a VHH phagemid library generated from a llama that was multiply immunized with recombinant trimeric HIV-1 envelope proteins (Envs) was screened directly for HIV-1 neutralization. One VHH, L8CJ3 (J3), neutralized 96 of 100 tested HIV-1 strains, encompassing subtypes A, B, C, D, BC, AE, AG, AC, ACD, CD, and G. J3 also potently neutralized chimeric simian-HIV strains with HIV subtypes B and C Env. The sequence of J3 is highly divergent from previous anti–HIV-1 VHH and its own germline sequence. J3 achieves broad and potent neutralization of HIV-1 via interaction with the CD4-binding site of HIV-1 Env. This study may represent a new benchmark for immunogens to be included in B cell–based vaccines and supports the development of VHH as anti–HIV-1 microbicides.
Few studies have explored the role of neutralizing antibody (NAb) responses in controlling HIV-2 viremia and disease progression. Using a TZM-bl neutralization assay, we assessed heterologous and autologous NAb responses from a community cohort of HIV-2-infected individuals with a broad range of disease outcomes in rural Guinea-Bissau. All subjects (n = 40) displayed exceptionally high heterologous NAb titers (50% inhibitory plasma dilution or 50% inhibitory concentration [IC50], 1:7,000 to 1:1,000,000) against 5 novel primary HIV-2 envelopes and HIV-2 7312A, whereas ROD A and 3 primary envelopes were relatively resistant to neutralization. Most individuals also showed high autologous NAb against contemporaneous envelopes (78% of plasma-envelope combinations in 69 envelopes from 21 subjects), with IC50s above 1:10,000. No association between heterologous or autologous NAb titer and greater control of HIV-2 was found. A subset of envelopes was found to be more resistant to neutralization (by plasma and HIV-2 monoclonal antibodies). These envelopes were isolated from individuals with greater intrapatient sequence diversity and were associated with changes in potential N-linked glycosylation sites but not CD4 independence or CXCR4 use. Plasma collected from up to 15 years previously was able to potently neutralize recent autologous envelopes, suggesting a lack of escape from NAb and the persistence of neutralization-sensitive variants over time, despite significant NAb pressure. We conclude that despite the presence of broad and potent NAb responses in HIV-2-infected individuals, these are not the primary forces behind the dichotomous outcomes observed but reveal a limited capacity for adaptive selection and escape from host immunity in HIV-2 infection.
In celebration of the centennial of the publication of Peyton Rous’s JEM paper on Rous sarcoma virus, this Perspective illustrates Rous’s broad and long-lasting influence on studies of tumor virology, oncogenes, and the molecular basis of carcinogenesis.
The discovery of Rous sarcoma virus, which was reported by Peyton Rous in the Journal of Experimental Medicine 100 years ago, opened the field of tumor virology. It showed that some cancers have infectious etiology, led to the discovery of oncogenes, and laid the foundation for the molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis. Rous spent his entire research career at The Rockefeller Institute, and he was the JEM’s longest serving editor. Here, we comment briefly on the life of this remarkable scientist and on the importance of his discoveries.
The Duffy-null trait and ethnic neutropenia are highly prevalent in Africa. The authors found that the trait of Duffy-null–associated low neutrophil counts associated with increased HIV-1 susceptibility. The possible contribution of this trait to the high prevalence of HIV-1 in Africa requires further investigation
Background. The Duffy-null trait and ethnic netropenia are both highly prevalent in Africa. The influence of pre-seroconversion levels of peripheral blood cell counts (PBCs) on the risk of acquiring human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–1 infection among Africans is unknown.
Methods. The triangular relationship among pre-seroconversion PBC counts, host genotypes, and risk of HIV acquisition was determined in a prospective cohort of black South African high-risk female sex workers. Twenty-seven women had seroconversion during follow-up, and 115 remained HIV negative for 2 years, despite engaging in high-risk activity.
Results. Pre-seroconversion neutrophil counts in women who subsequently had seroconversion were significantly lower, whereas platelet counts were higher, compared with those who remained HIV negative. Comprising 27% of the cohort, subjects with pre-seroconversion neutrophil counts of <2500 cells/mm3 had a ∼3-fold greater risk of acquiring HIV infection. In a genome-wide association analyses, an African-specific polymorphism (rs2814778) in the promoter of Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines (DARC −46T > C) was significantly associated with neutrophil counts (P = 7.9 × 10−11). DARC −46C/C results in loss of DARC expression on erthyrocytes (Duffy-null) and resistance to Plasmodium vivax malaria, and in our cohort, only subjects with this genotype had pre-seroconversion neutrophil counts of <2500 cells/mm3. The risk of acquiring HIV infection was ∼3-fold greater in those with the trait of Duffy-null–associated low neutrophil counts, compared with all other study participants.
Conclusions. Pre-seroconversion neutrophil and platelet counts influence risk of HIV infection. The trait of Duffy-null–associated low neutrophil counts influences HIV susceptibility. Because of the high prevalence of this trait among persons of African ancestry, it may contribute to the dynamics of the HIV epidemic in Africa.
Many of the neutralising antibodies, isolated to date, display limited activities against the globally most prevalent HIV-1 subtypes A and C. Therefore, those subtypes are considered to be an important target for antibody-based therapy. Variable domains of llama heavy chain antibodies (VHH) have some superior properties compared with classical antibodies. Therefore we describe the application of trimeric forms of envelope proteins (Env), derived from HIV-1 of subtype A and B/C, for a prolonged immunization of two llamas. A panel of VHH, which interfere with CD4 binding to HIV-1 Env were selected with use of panning. The results of binding and competition assays to various Env, including a variant with a stabilized CD4-binding state (gp120Ds2), cross-competition experiments, maturation analysis and neutralisation assays, enabled us to classify the selected VHH into three groups. The VHH of group I were efficient mainly against viruses of subtype A, C and B′/C. The VHH of group II resemble the broadly neutralising antibody (bnmAb) b12, neutralizing mainly subtype B and C viruses, however some had a broader neutralisation profile. A representative of the third group, 2E7, had an even higher neutralization breadth, neutralizing 21 out of the 26 tested strains belonging to the A, A/G, B, B/C and C subtypes. To evaluate the contribution of certain amino acids to the potency of the VHH a small set of the mutants were constructed. Surprisingly this yielded one mutant with slightly improved neutralisation potency against 92UG37.A9 (subtype A) and 96ZM651.02 (subtype C). These findings and the well-known stability of VHH indicate the potential application of these VHH as anti-HIV-1 microbicides.
For efficient prevention of viral infections and cross protection, simultaneous targeting of multiple viral epitopes is a powerful strategy. Llama heavy chain antibody fragments (VHH) against the trimeric envelope proteins of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (Fusion protein), Rabies virus (Glycoprotein) and H5N1 Influenza (Hemagglutinin 5) were selected from llama derived immune libraries by phage display. Neutralizing VHH recognizing different epitopes in the receptor binding sites on the spikes with affinities in the low nanomolar range were identified for all the three viruses by viral neutralization assays. By fusion of VHH with variable linker lengths, multimeric constructs were made that improved neutralization potencies up to 4,000-fold for RSV, 1,500-fold for Rabies virus and 75-fold for Influenza H5N1. The potencies of the VHH constructs were similar or better than best performing monoclonal antibodies. The cross protection capacity against different viral strains was also improved for all three viruses, both by multivalent (two or three identical VHH) and biparatopic (two different VHH) constructs. By combining a VHH neutralizing RSV subtype A, but not subtype B with a poorly neutralizing VHH with high affinity for subtype B, a biparatopic construct was made with low nanomolar neutralizing potency against both subtypes. Trivalent anti-H5N1 VHH neutralized both Influenza H5N1 clade1 and 2 in a pseudotype assay and was very potent in neutralizing the NIBRG-14 Influenza H5N1 strain with IC50 of 9 picomolar. Bivalent and biparatopic constructs against Rabies virus cross neutralized both 10 different Genotype 1 strains and Genotype 5.
The results show that multimerization of VHH fragments targeting multiple epitopes on a viral trimeric spike protein is a powerful tool for anti-viral therapy to achieve “best-in-class” and broader neutralization capacity.
Non-neutralising antibodies to the envelope glycoprotein are elicited during acute HIV-1 infection and are abundant throughout the course of disease progression. Although these antibodies appear to have negligible effects on HIV-1 infection when assayed in standard neutralisation assays, they have the potential to exert either inhibitory or enhancing effects through interactions with complement and/or Fc receptors. Here we report that non-neutralising antibodies produced early in response to HIV-1 infection can enhance viral infectivity.
We investigated this complement-mediated antibody-dependent enhancement (C'-ADE) of early HIV infection by carrying out longitudinal studies with primary viruses and autologous sera derived sequentially from recently infected individuals, using a T cell line naturally expressing the complement receptor 2 (CR2; CD21). The C'-ADE was consistently observed and in some cases achieved infection-enhancing levels of greater than 350-fold, converting a low-level infection to a highly destructive one. C'-ADE activity declined as a neutralising response to the early virus emerged, but later virus isolates that had escaped the neutralising response demonstrated an increased capacity for enhanced infection by autologous antibodies. Moreover, sera with autologous enhancing activity were capable of C'ADE of heterologous viral isolates, suggesting the targeting of conserved epitopes on the envelope glycoprotein. Ectopic expression of CR2 on cell lines expressing HIV-1 receptors was sufficient to render them sensitive to C'ADE.
Taken together, these results suggest that non-neutralising antibodies to the HIV-1 envelope that arise during acute infection are not 'passive', but in concert with complement and complement receptors may have consequences for HIV-1 dissemination and pathogenesis.
The human monoclonal antibody (mAb) HK20 neutralizes a broad spectrum of primary HIV-1 isolates by targeting the highly conserved heptad repeat 1 (HR1) of gp41, which is transiently exposed during HIV-1 entry. Here we present the crystal structure of the HK20 Fab in complex with a gp41 mimetic 5-Helix at 2.3 Å resolution. HK20 employs its heavy chain CDR H2 and H3 loops to bind into a conserved hydrophobic HR1 pocket that is occupied by HR2 residues in the gp41 post fusion conformation. Compared to the previously described HR1-specific mAb D5, HK20 approaches its epitope with a different angle which might favor epitope access and thus contribute to its higher neutralization breadth and potency. Comparison of the neutralization activities of HK20 IgG, Fab and scFv employing both single cycle and multiple cycle neutralization assays revealed much higher potencies for the smaller Fab and scFv over IgG, implying that the target site is difficult to access for complete antibodies. Nevertheless, two thirds of sera from HIV-1 infected individuals contain significant titers of HK20-inhibiting antibodies. The breadth of neutralization of primary isolates across all clades, the higher potencies for C-clade viruses and the targeting of a distinct site as compared to the fusion inhibitor T-20 demonstrate the potential of HK20 scFv as a therapeutic tool.
The HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein composed of the receptor binding subunit gp120 and the fusion protein gp41 is the prime target for neutralizing antibodies. Receptor binding induces a conformational change in gp41 that transiently exposes the conserved heptad repeat 1 (HR1) region. We have previously isolated the human HR1-specific mAb HK20 and provide now the structural basis for epitope recognition. HK20 employs mainly its CDR H2 and H3 for binding similar to HR1 binding of mAb D5. We demonstrate that HK20 and D5 bind HR1 with similar affinities; however, HK20 has a broader neutralization breadth than D5, which might be due to the differences in their approach angles of epitope recognition. Competition analyses of 33 sera from HIV-1 infected individuals reveal significant titers of HK20-inhibiting antibodies in 20 cases, confirming the immunogenicity of the epitope. We demonstrate further that HK20 IgG have limited neutralization breadth and potency while smaller HK20 Fabs and scFv reveal a broad cross clade neutralization breadth. This suggests that the accessibility of the HR1 epitope limits the value of HR1 mAbs for infection prevention, but highlights the importance of smaller versions such Fabs or scFv to combat infection alone or in synergistic approaches with other antivirals.
The recent identification of the gammaretrovirus XMRV and a second gammaretrovirus of a different subtype in chronic fatigue syndrome has aroused much interest, not least among sufferers. However, it remains highly controversial whether the detection of these viruses represents true infection or laboratory artifacts.
HIV-1 entry into host cells is mediated by the sequential binding of the envelope glycoprotein gp120 to CD4 and a chemokine receptor. Antibodies binding to epitopes overlapping the CD4-binding site on gp120 are potent inhibitors of HIV entry, such as the llama heavy chain antibody fragment VHH D7, which has cross-clade neutralizing properties and competes with CD4 and mAb b12 for high affinity binding to gp120. We report the crystal structure of the D7 VHH at 1.5 Å resolution, which reveals the molecular details of the complementarity determining regions (CDR) and substantial flexibility of CDR3 that could facilitate an induced fit interaction with gp120. Structural comparison of CDRs from other CD4 binding site antibodies suggests diverse modes of interaction. Mutational analysis identified CDR3 as a key component of gp120 interaction as determined by surface plasmon resonance. A decrease in affinity is directly coupled to the neutralization efficiency since mutations that decrease gp120 interaction increase the IC50 required for HIV-1 IIIB neutralization. Thus the structural study identifies the long CDR3 of D7 as the key determinant of interaction and HIV-1 neutralization. Furthermore, our data confirm that the structural plasticity of gp120 can accommodate multiple modes of antibody binding within the CD4 binding site.
Recently, we described llama antibody fragments (VHH) that can neutralize human immunodeficiency virus, type 1 (HIV-1). These VHH were obtained after selective elution of phages carrying an immune library raised against gp120 of HIV-1 subtype B/C CN54 with soluble CD4. We describe here a new, family-specific approach to obtain the largest possible diversity of related VHH that compete with soluble CD4 for binding to the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein. The creation of this family-specific library of homologous VHH has enabled us to isolate phages carrying similar nucleotide sequences as the parental VHH. These VHH displayed varying binding affinities and neutralization phenotypes to a panel of different strains and subtypes of HIV-1. Sequence analysis of the homologs showed that the C-terminal three amino acids of the CDR3 loop were crucial in determining the specificity of these VHH for different subtype C HIV-1 strains. There was a positive correlation between affinity of VHH binding to gp120 of HIV-1 IIIB and the breadth of neutralization of diverse HIV-1 envelopes. The family-specific approach has therefore allowed us to better understand the interaction of the CD4-binding site antibodies with virus strain specificity and has potential use for the bioengineering of antibodies and HIV-1 vaccine development.
Antibodies; HIV; Human Immunodeficiency Virus; Kinetics; Retrovirus; Surface Plasmon Resonance; VHH; Llama Heavy Chain Antibodies; Neutralizing Antibodies; Phage Display
The target of neutralizing antibodies that protect against influenza virus infection is the viral protein HA. Genetic and antigenic variation in HA has been used to classify influenza viruses into subtypes (H1–H16). The neutralizing antibody response to influenza virus is thought to be specific for a few antigenically related isolates within a given subtype. However, while heterosubtypic antibodies capable of neutralizing multiple influenza virus subtypes have been recently isolated from phage display libraries, it is not known whether such antibodies are produced in the course of an immune response to influenza virus infection or vaccine. Here we report that, following vaccination with seasonal influenza vaccine containing H1 and H3 influenza virus subtypes, some individuals produce antibodies that cross-react with H5 HA. By immortalizing IgG-expressing B cells from 4 individuals, we isolated 20 heterosubtypic mAbs that bound and neutralized viruses belonging to several HA subtypes (H1, H2, H5, H6, and H9), including the pandemic A/California/07/09 H1N1 isolate. The mAbs used different VH genes and carried a high frequency of somatic mutations. With the exception of a mAb that bound to the HA globular head, all heterosubtypic mAbs bound to acid-sensitive epitopes in the HA stem region. Four mAbs were evaluated in vivo and protected mice from challenge with influenza viruses representative of different subtypes. These findings reveal that seasonal influenza vaccination can induce polyclonal heterosubtypic neutralizing antibodies that cross-react with the swine-origin pandemic H1N1 influenza virus and with the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus.
The isolation of human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that neutralize a broad spectrum of primary HIV-1 isolates and the characterization of the human neutralizing antibody B cell response to HIV-1 infection are important goals that are central to the design of an effective antibody-based vaccine.
Methods and Findings
We immortalized IgG+ memory B cells from individuals infected with diverse clades of HIV-1 and selected on the basis of plasma neutralization profiles that were cross-clade and relatively potent. Culture supernatants were screened using various recombinant forms of the envelope glycoproteins (Env) in multiple parallel assays. We isolated 58 mAbs that were mapped to different Env surfaces, most of which showed neutralizing activity. One mAb in particular (HJ16) specific for a novel epitope proximal to the CD4 binding site on gp120 selectively neutralized a multi-clade panel of Tier-2 HIV-1 pseudoviruses, and demonstrated reactivity that was comparable in breadth, but distinct in neutralization specificity, to that of the other CD4 binding site-specific neutralizing mAb b12. A second mAb (HGN194) bound a conserved epitope in the V3 crown and neutralized all Tier-1 and a proportion of Tier-2 pseudoviruses tested, irrespective of clade. A third mAb (HK20) with broad neutralizing activity, particularly as a Fab fragment, recognized a highly conserved epitope in the HR-1 region of gp41, but showed striking assay-dependent selectivity in its activity.
This study reveals that by using appropriate screening methods, a large proportion of memory B cells can be isolated that produce mAbs with HIV-1 neutralizing activity. Three of these mAbs show unusual breadth of neutralization and therefore add to the current panel of HIV-1 neutralizing antibodies with potential for passive protection and template-based vaccine design.
The inflexibility of existing serological techniques for detection of rabies in surveillance constrains the benefit to be gained from many current control strategies. We analysed 304 serum samples from Tanzanian dogs for the detection of rabies antibodies in a pseudotype assay using lentiviral vectors bearing the CVS-11 envelope glycoprotein. Compared with the widely used gold standard fluorescent antibody virus neutralisation assay, a specificity of 100% and sensitivity of 94.4% with a strong correlation of antibody titres (r = 0.915) were observed with the pseudotype assay. To increase the assay's surveillance specificity in Africa we incorporated the envelope glycoprotein of local viruses, Lagos bat virus, Duvenhage virus or Mokola virus and also cloned the lacZ gene to provide a reporter element. Neutralisation assays using pseudotypes bearing these glycoproteins reveal that they provide a greater sensitivity compared to similar live virus assays and will therefore allow a more accurate determination of the distribution of these highly pathogenic infections and the threat they pose to human health. Importantly, the CVS-11 pseudotypes were highly stable during freeze–thaw cycles and storage at room temperature. These results suggest the proposed pseudotype assay is a suitable option for undertaking lyssavirus serosurveillance in areas most affected by these infections.
Rabies virus; Lyssavirus; Africa; Pseudotype
The diagnosis of rabies is routinely based on clinical and epidemiological information, especially when exposures are reported in rabies-endemic countries. Diagnostic tests using conventional assays that appear to be negative, even when undertaken late in the disease and despite the clinical diagnosis, have a tendency, at times, to be unreliable. These tests are rarely optimal and entirely dependent on the nature and quality of the sample supplied. In the course of the past three decades, the application of molecular biology has aided in the development of tests that result in a more rapid detection of rabies virus. These tests enable viral strain identification from clinical specimens. Currently, there are a number of molecular tests that can be used to complement conventional tests in rabies diagnosis. Indeed the challenges in the 21st century for the development of rabies diagnostics are not of a technical nature; these tests are available now. The challenges in the 21st century for diagnostic test developers are two-fold: firstly, to achieve internationally accepted validation of a test that will then lead to its acceptance by organisations globally. Secondly, the areas of the world where such tests are needed are mainly in developing regions where financial and logistical barriers prevent their implementation. Although developing countries with a poor healthcare infrastructure recognise that molecular-based diagnostic assays will be unaffordable for routine use, the cost/benefit ratio should still be measured. Adoption of rapid and affordable rabies diagnostic tests for use in developing countries highlights the importance of sharing and transferring technology through laboratory twinning between the developed and the developing countries. Importantly for developing countries, the benefit of molecular methods as tools is the capability for a differential diagnosis of human diseases that present with similar clinical symptoms. Antemortem testing for human rabies is now possible using molecular techniques. These barriers are not insurmountable and it is our expectation that if such tests are accepted and implemented where they are most needed, they will provide substantial improvements for rabies diagnosis and surveillance. The advent of molecular biology and new technological initiatives that combine advances in biology with other disciplines will support the development of techniques capable of high throughput testing with a low turnaround time for rabies diagnosis.
Although most epidemic human infectious diseases are caused by recently introduced pathogens, cospeciation of parasite and host is commonplace for endemic infections. Occasional host infidelity, however, provides the endemic parasite with an opportunity to survive the potential extinction of its host. Such infidelity may account for the survival of certain types of human lice, and it is currently exemplified by viruses such as HIV.
Members of the Camelidae family produce immunoglobulins devoid of light chains. We have characterized variable domains of these heavy chain antibodies, the VHH, from llamas immunized with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope protein gp120 in order to identify VHH that can inhibit HIV-1 infection. To increase the chances of isolating neutralizing VHH, we employed a functional selection approach, involving panning of phage libraries expressing the VHH repertoire on recombinant gp120, followed by a competitive elution with soluble CD4. By immunizing with gp120 derived from an HIV-1 subtype B′/C primary isolate, followed by panning on gp120 from HIV-1 isolates of subtypes A, B, and C, we could select for VHH with cross-subtype neutralizing activity. Three VHH able to neutralize HIV-1 primary isolates of subtypes B and C were characterized. These bound to recombinant gp120 with affinities close to the suggested affinity ceiling for in vivo-maturated antibodies and competed with soluble CD4 for this binding, indicating that their mechanism of neutralization involves interacting with the functional envelope spike prior to binding to CD4. The most potent VHH in terms of low 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) and IC90 values and cross-subtype reactivity was A12. These results indicate that camelid VHH can be potent HIV-1 entry inhibitors. Since VHH are stable and can be produced at a relatively low cost, they may be considered for applications such as HIV-1 microbicide development. Antienvelope VHH might also prove useful in defining neutralizing and nonneutralizing epitopes on HIV-1 envelope proteins, with implications for HIV-1 vaccine design.
Effective vaccines should confer long-term protection against future outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) caused by a novel zoonotic coronavirus (SARS-CoV) with unknown animal reservoirs. We conducted a cohort study examining multiple parameters of immune responses to SARS-CoV infection, aiming to identify the immune correlates of protection. We used a matrix of overlapping peptides spanning whole SARS-CoV proteome to determine T cell responses from 128 SARS convalescent samples by ex vivo IFN-γ ELISPOT assays. Approximately 50% of convalescent SARS patients were positive for T cell responses, and 90% possessed strongly neutralizing Abs. Fifty-five novel T cell epitopes were identified, with spike protein dominating total T cell responses. CD8+ T cell responses were more frequent and of a greater magnitude than CD4+ T cell responses (p < 0.001). Polychromatic cytometry analysis indicated that the virus-specific T cells from the severe group tended to be a central memory phenotype (CD27+/CD45RO+) with a significantly higher frequency of polyfunctional CD4+ T cells producing IFN-γ, TNF-α, and IL-2, and CD8+ T cells producing IFN-γ, TNF-α, and CD107a (degranulation), as compared with the mild-moderate group. Strong T cell responses correlated significantly (p < 0.05) with higher neutralizing Ab. The serum cytokine profile during acute infection indicated a significant elevation of innate immune responses. Increased Th2 cytokines were observed in patients with fatal infection. Our study provides a roadmap for the immunogenicity of SARS-CoV and types of immune responses that may be responsible for the virus clearance, and should serve as a benchmark for SARS-CoV vaccine design and evaluation.
Summary: Retroviruses are an important group of pathogens that cause a variety of diseases in humans and animals. Four human retroviruses are currently known, including human immunodeficiency virus type 1, which causes AIDS, and human T-lymphotropic virus type 1, which causes cancer and inflammatory disease. For many years, there have been sporadic reports of additional human retroviral infections, particularly in cancer and other chronic diseases. Unfortunately, many of these putative viruses remain unproven and controversial, and some retrovirologists have dismissed them as merely “human rumor viruses.” Work in this field was last reviewed in depth in 1984, and since then, the molecular techniques available for identifying and characterizing retroviruses have improved enormously in sensitivity. The advent of PCR in particular has dramatically enhanced our ability to detect novel viral sequences in human tissues. However, DNA amplification techniques have also increased the potential for false-positive detection due to contamination. In addition, the presence of many families of human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) within our DNA can obstruct attempts to identify and validate novel human retroviruses. Here, we aim to bring together the data on “novel” retroviral infections in humans by critically examining the evidence for those putative viruses that have been linked with disease and the likelihood that they represent genuine human infections. We provide a background to the field and a discussion of potential confounding factors along with some technical guidelines. In addition, some of the difficulties associated with obtaining formal proof of causation for common or ubiquitous agents such as HERVs are discussed.