According to a new study published in the journal Nature, a revolutionary HIV treatment which uses an antibody to attack the virus could be the first step to a new vaccine to prevent the infection.
The first results after trials show the experimental therapy can significantly reduce the level of virus in a patient’s blood.
The researchers who pioneered the technique think their findings will bring out new strategies for combating or even preventing HIV infection. The antibody was created by scientists to block the key viral protein receptor that is required to infect human blood cells. Patients whom were injected with the neutralizing antibody during the trials experienced a 300-fold cut in their viral load.
A person infected with HIV is a continuous battlefield between the body’s immune system and the virus. The body steps up production of new antibodies that hit the virus, but the infection always manages to stay ahead, by mutating in order to escape.
The team of researchers at Rockefeller University in New York suggests that an appropriate alternative treatment for the problem is using synthetic antibodies that are being attached to the surface of proteins on the outer membrane of the HIV virus.
The results obtained by the Rockefeller University are the first among HIV antibodies tested in humans that had shown encouraging results. “One antibody alone or one drug alone will not be enough to suppress viral load for a long time because resistance will arise. What’s special about these antibodies is that they have activity against over 80 per cent of HIV strains and they are extremely potent,” said Dr Marina Caskey, co-author of the study.
The study found out that the therapy based on the new antibody was used with great effect against 195 of 237 HIV strains. The immune systems of those infected with HIV will start to produce neutralizing antibodies in 10 to 30 per cent of cases, but no sooner than seven years after the infection took place, a period in which the virus has mutated and has become immune to the antibodies.
If the person would receive these antibodies right after infection, the HIV virus would then have less time to evolve. In the new study, uninfected and HIV-infected patients were given a single dose of the antibody intravenously, and their medical status was monitored for 56 days. All eight infected people treated with the highest dose level revealed up to a 300-fold decrease in the amount of HIV virus in their blood.
Image Source: MediMoon