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Scientists a step closer to AIDS vaccine

In what may be an important step toward a long-elusive AIDS vaccine, US researchers have minutely tracked one individual’s powerful immune response to the virus to see how a series of mutations led to an antibody that can defeat many HIV strains.

A vaccine still remains far off, but the research illuminated one complex path that may someday be followed to that distant goal.

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“The beauty of this is that it’s a big clue as to the sequential steps the virus and the antibody take as they evolve,’’ said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, which financed the research.

The study, led by scientists at Duke University, was published online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Scientists have so far failed to produce an AIDS vaccine because HIV mutates so rapidly. The study analyzed many sequential samples of the blood of one African man from shortly after he was infected until about two years later, when he started to produce ‘‘broadly neutralizing anti­bodies.’’

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