Globally, human immunodeficiency virus-type 1 (HIV-1) is extraordinarily variable, and this diversity poses a major obstacle to AIDS vaccine development. Currently, candidate vaccines are derived from isolates, with the hope that they will be sufficiently cross-reactive to protect against circulating viruses. This may be overly optimistic, however, given that HIV-1 envelope proteins can differ in more than 30% of their amino acids. To contend with the diversity, country-specific vaccines are being considered, but evolutionary relationships may be more useful than regional considerations. Consensus or ancestor sequences could be used in vaccine design to minimize the genetic differences between vaccine strains and contemporary isolates, effectively reducing the extent of diversity by half.
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