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Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2012 Apr;34(2):222-31. doi: 10.3109/08923973.2011.596542. Epub 2011 Aug 19.

Vaccinia and other viruses with available vaccines show marked homology with the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein: the prospect of using existing vaccines to stem the AIDS pandemic.

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  • 1Polygenic Pathways, East Sussex, UK.


Cross-reactive immunity occurs when infection with or vaccination against one virus protects against another related family member. A search for homologues of the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein revealed that it is composed of thousands of intercalating and overlapping viral matches of pentapeptide or longer gapped consensi, belonging to over 70% of the currently sequenced virome, infecting all kingdoms from bacteria to man. It was also highly homologous to proteins from the Visna/Maedi and other ovine viruses, while other proteins (nef/tat/gag/pol) were homologous to proteins from the equine infectious anaemia virus and HTLV-2/HTLV-3 viruses. This phenomenon suggests that horizontal gene transfer from coinfecting RNA and DNA viruses to retroviruses is extensive, providing a route for the subsequent insertion of non-retroviral genes into human and other genomes via retroviral integration. This homology includes all viruses for which vaccines already exist. Cross-reactive immunity may be operative in AIDS, as Vaccinia vaccination decreases viral replication in HIV-1 infected patients' cells, for the CCR5 tropic form. Measles, Dengue virus, or GB virus C infections also decrease the HIV-1 viral load. A resumption of Vaccinia/smallpox vaccination might be expected to have a significant effect on the AIDS pandemic, and a careful study of the potential uses of other existing viral and bacterial vaccines merits close attention. This phenomenon may also be relevant to other recalcitrant viruses, bacteria, and parasites for which no vaccine exists and the armory of existing vaccines may have a role to play in diseases other than those for which they were designed.

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