Forward progress sometimes requires a backward glance. A twenty-five-year-old blood sample from an infant infected with HIV could hold clues to modeling a better HIV vaccine, according to work published in Nature Communications by scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
The sample, which held a special HIV-blocking protein that can develop after HIV infection, was taken during a groundbreaking HIV transmission trial conducted in the early 1990s. At the time antiretroviral drugs were not available and whether HIV could be transmitted through breast milk was unknown. HIV-positive mothers in Nairobi, Kenya, helped researchers discover that the virus could indeed spread to infants via breastfeeding. Carefully preserved for more than two decades, the blood samples collected during this study are providing new answers to then-undreamed-of questions made possible by advances in research tools.