Newly Engineered Antibody Can Fight Back Against 99 Percent of HIV Strains

HIV virus

In a similar fashion to influenza, the difficulty in taking on HIV is that the number of strains makes it incredibly hard to develop a single treatment for it, but naturally occurring antibodies have developed over the years in some patients that can target 90pc of strains.

This is a three-pronged collection of broad antibodies that are capable of attacking multiple strains of HIV, 99% in fact.

The so-called "trispecific" antibody, made by researchers from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Paris-based pharmaceutical company Sanofi, works by binding to three different critical sites on HIV.

The International Aids Society said it was an "exciting breakthrough". To even have a hope of helping the body fight it there needs to be a response that tackles not just one strain of HIV but every strain.

After years of living with HIV, a small number of patients have been found to develop "broadly neutralizing antibodies", which are powerful biological weapons that attack something basic to the virus, killing large swathes of HIV strains.

A total of 24 monkeys were first given the tri-specific antibody, before being injected with the HIV virus.

"These data reveal that single bNAbs efficiently select resistant viruses from a diverse challenge swarm to establish infection, demonstrating the importance of bNAb cocktails for (HIV) prevention", said the study led by researchers from Harvard University. This does more. Nabel said, "We're getting 99% coverage, and getting coverage at very low concentrations of the antibody".

VRC scientists tested this trispecific antibody in an experiment involving monkeys and two strains of SHIV.

Twenty-four monkeys were vaccinated against HIV; eight with one of the natural antibodies, eight with the second naturally occurring antibody and eight with the engineered tri-specific antibody.

"It was quite an impressive degree of protection", Gary Nabel, a researcher in the study, told BBC.

'These super-engineered antibodies seem to go beyond the natural and could have more applications than we have imagined to date. If the clinical trials in HIV prove successful, the technology could be used against a wide range of other infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases and cancers. "It's early days yet, and as a scientist I look forward to seeing the first trials get off the ground in 2018".

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