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Politics grabbed much of the attention at the International AIDS Conference in Barcelona last week. But several important research presentations shared the spotlight.

While public health leaders debated the politics of the epidemic, a number of basic researchers provided a splash of cold water to drug and vaccine developers:
  • Robert Siliciano (Johns Hopkins University, United States) described new insights into HIV’s remarkable ability to persist in the body, even in the face of powerful drugs

  • Three research groups provided discouraging new data showing that the phenomenon known as ‘superinfection’ — where people infected with HIV are able to fend off infection by a second strain of the virus — cannot be relied upon

  • Andreas Meyerhans (University of Homburg, Germany) focused on HIV’s ‘rampant recombination’, reporting that HIV shows a high degree of variation within infected cells, enabling it to dodge drugs and vaccines

  • Ann Sheehy (University of Pennsylvania, United States) talked about the recently discovered link between HIV’s vif protein and a gene found in human T-cells called CEM15 (see Scientists discover new target for HIV drugs, 15 July 2002)

Reference: Science 297, 312 (2002)

Link to full Science article