A major clinical trial involving more than 16,000 volunteers, known as the RV144 trial, tested a combination of two vaccines (ALVAC-HIV and AIDSVAX B/E gp120) for its ability to prevent HIV infection, as well as for safety. The vaccine was 31% effective against HIV-1 infection, and antibodies against the HIV-1 envelope variable loop 1 and 2 (V1/V2) domain correlated inversely with infection risk. Rolland et al. present a genetic analysis of breakthrough infections in RV144 trial participants and identify signatures associated with vaccine-induced immune pressure, thereby gaining support for a causal relationship between vaccination and protection. Viral amino-acid changes at positions 169 and 181 in the second variable loop of the viral envelope are shown to be most associated with efficacy — and represent possible targets for future vaccines.
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