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HIV has a very high mutation rate, a rapid reproductive rate, and an enormous population size. This means that at any given time, a human infected with HIV is carrying tens of millions of HIV virions with millions of different random mutations. Inevitably, sooner or later, a mutation will occur that confers resistance to AZT. (This will typically be a mutation that causes greater selectivity in the active site of the reverse transcriptase enzyme.) Notice that the HIV population has heritable variation for resistance to AZT before exposure to AZT. However, at this stage the resistance to AZT occurs only in one or a few virions, out of the billions.

Step two is for the patient to begin taking AZT. This prevents or slows replication of most HIV virions, and those strains die out. But the lucky virion with the right mutation will survive and will be able to replicate.

The surviving HIV virions then repopulate the host. Soon the entire HIV population is composed of resistant virions.

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โˆ™ 2009-05-23 16:37:06
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Q: Why does high mutation rate of HIV make it difficult to develop a vaccine against it?
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It has a high mutation rate causing different strains.


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It is difficult to develop a vaccine because the virus changes (mutates) very quickly. Thus scientists do not have a stable target to make the vaccine against.


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The virus can live,grow and multiply only inside the body of their specific host because the viruses have only a few biochemical reactions of their own. They cannot be cultured on artificial medium,so it is difficult to develop vaccine against viral diseases.


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Part of the problem in developing an effective vaccine so far has been the issue of mutation. The HIV virus mutates, or changes, rapidly. What this means for vaccine research and development is that as we are studying the virus and figuring out what will be effective against it, it changes, making whatever we have so far come up with ineffective.


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