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Modest Briton Stirs Up Storm With Views on Role of CTLs

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Science  19 Jun 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5371, pp. 1860-1861
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5371.1860

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OXFORD, U.K.-- In the early 1990s, immunologist Andrew McMichael and a group of Oxford collaborators proposed that HIV avoids being destroyed by continually mutating, allowing the virus to evolve through Darwinian natural selection and escape from even the most powerful onslaught of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs), one of the most formidable weapons in the immune system's arsenal. Although the concept of "immune escape" had been proposed before to explain how HIV avoids being neutralized by antibodies, lingering doubts about the importance of CTLs in combating the virus have made the model's key prediction--that the virus is evolving specifically in response to the natural selection pressure from CTLs--unconvincing to some researchers. Now the Oxford group has developed a highly sensitive assay that has offered the first clear evidence that CTLs play a major role in controlling the virus.