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HIV-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) are believed to play a major role in controlling virus levels through the asymptomatic period of HIV infection. For the rational design of an HIV vaccine, we need to know whether protective immunity can ever develop following HIV exposure in people who remain uninfected. We have detected HIV-specific CTL in 5/6 repeatedly exposed, persistently seronegative female sex-workers in The Gambia. Their CTL, repeatedly detected over two years, recognise epitopes presented by HLA-B35 which are cross-reactive between HIV-1 & HIV-2, suggesting they could have been primed first by HIV-2 exposure and subsequently boosted by exposure to HIV-1. Using previously identified clade B HIV-1 epitope peptides, we have now detected HIV-specific CTL in 6/15 highly exposed and apparently HIV-resistant Kenyan prostitutes, predominantly towards epitopes highly conserved between B and the Kenyan A & D clades of HIV-1. This CTL activity towards conserved virus epitopes may represent protective immunity to HIV generated in response to repeated exposure, and prophylactic HIV vaccines should aim to generate similar CTL responses.


Journal article


Developments in biological standardization

Publication Date





209 - 214


Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington, Oxford, U.K.


T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic, Cells, Cultured, Humans, HIV-1, HIV-2, HIV Infections, HLA-B35 Antigen, Epitope Mapping, Cross Reactions, Kenya, Gambia, Female, Sex Work