The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) partnered with the pharmaceutical firm, Sanofi, to produce an antibody capable of attacking 99 percent of HIV strains. This new study is made up of three broadly neutralizing antibodies, and it is said to be more effective than any naturally occurring antibody that’s been discovered.
The International Aids Society has praised the finding as an “exciting breakthrough.”
The human body has trouble battling HIV because the virus is able to mutate and change its appearance. In a single patient, there can be an extreme amount of HIV strains due to this mutation, also making it hard for the immune system to fight against all these strains.
However, a slim minority of people who suffer from HIV develop a means of battling back in a form of broadly neutralizing antibodies. These proteins are capable of killing off numerous HIV strains at once. So, NIH and Sanofi researchers set out to find a way to harness these rare natural defenses.
The study consisted of combining three unique antibodies to produce a tri-specific antibody. The most effective naturally occurring antibodies can only target 90 percent of HIV strains, this new tri-specific antibody is capable of attacking 99 percent. Even when observed in low concentrations, the results came out successful. Before the testing can commence on humans, the study used 24 monkeys. The new antibodies were first administered and then the virus was injected into the monkey. The results were astounding, with not one resulting infection.
Dr. Gary Nabel of Sanofi, told the BBC, “The tri-specific antibodies are more potent and have greater breadth than any single naturally occurring antibody that’s been discovered.”
The researchers say that the next step is putting these incredibly powerful antibodies to work in a clinical trial, which is believed to start in 2018.
The president of the International Aids Society, Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, commented, “This paper reports an exciting breakthrough. These super-engineered antibodies seem to go beyond the natural and could have more applications than we have imagined to date.”
Over the last few decades, there have been some fantastic advances in the fight against HIV. This involves the various treatment methods in addition to several educational campaigns that are currently being carried out in Africa.
The search for a cure for HIV is still being sought for around the world. Scientists in South Africa are investigating the case of a nine-year-old girl who was possibly cured of HIV after receiving antiretroviral therapy. Another study analyzed cows’ ability to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies with the idea to use them to fight the virus.
“As a doctor in Africa, I feel the urgency to confirm these findings in humans as soon as possible.” Bekker said.
The battle against HIV continues for now, however, the NIH and Sanofi study brings hope and advancements to the fight against the virus the science community has not seen before.