Ann Conkle
Mar 15, 2012

Computer simulations help explain why HIV cure remains elusive

A new research report shows why the development of treatments for HIV has been so difficult. The report explains how Jack da Silva, author of the study, used computer simulations to discover that a population starting from a single human immunodeficiency virus can evolve fast enough to escape immune defenses. This discovery runs counter to the commonly held belief that evolution under these circumstances is very slow. da Silva used computer simulation to determine whether, under realistic conditions, the virus could evolve as rapidly as had been reported if the virus population started from a single individual virus. This was done by constructing a model of the virus and then simulating the killing of virus-infected cells by the immune system, along with mutation, recombination and random genetic changes. For realistic rates of cell killing, mutation and recombination, and a realistic population size, the virus could evolve very rapidly even if the initial population size is one.