Crowdsourcing Immunity

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Science  10 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6133, pp. 692-693
DOI: 10.1126/science.1238628

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Many viral pathogens exhibit a dramatic variability in the sequence and structure of surface proteins that are targets of the humoral immune system, allowing them to evade inhibition by neutralizing antibodies. This constant shape-shifting generates swarms of viruses in infected hosts that are often termed “quasispecies,” especially for agents such as HIV that cause chronic infections. On page 751 of this issue, Georgiev et al. (1) show that humans use complex and varied swarms of their own to respond to virus infection. Previously, it had been technically challenging to study the complex mixtures of antibodies found in serum in order to understand the clonal components of natural immune responses. These investigators address this with an approach that marries large-scale bioassays with computer algorithms.