New antibody therapy attacks 99% of HIV strains

Scientists have released the results of research into new treatment for HIV.

One of the problems in treating HIV is the virus can evolve and mutate. In the process, it becomes resistant to specific drugs. This means that new medications needs to be sought. For the same reason, until now, attempts at an effective vaccine have failed.

However, some people that have been a long-time infected are able to produce wide-acting antibodies that targets a fundamental part of the HIV virus.

The new research took a combination of these ‘broadly neutralizing antibodies’ and combined them into one treatment. The successful treatment was found to be effective against 99% of known HIV virus strains.

By comparison, on their own, the best of these antibodies is effective against just 90% of strains.

Tri-specific antibodies attack three fundamental parts of HIV virus

Until now, the treatment has only been tested on 24 monkeys, but the International AIDS Society has described it as an ‘exciting breakthrough’.

All the monkeys were given the ‘tri-specific antibody’. None of them went on to become HIV positive when injected with the virus.

Dr Gary Nabel, chief science officer of pharmaceutical company Sanofi, which partnered with the US National Institutes of Health on the research, called this, ‘an impressive degree of protection.’

Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the BBC, the, ‘Combinations of antibodies that each bind to a distinct site on HIV may best overcome the defenses of the virus in the effort to achieve effective antibody-based treatment and prevention.’

Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director at Terrence Higgins Trust, told GSN: ‘This is a really exciting and encouraging study … Whilst it is still early days, we hope that future research will demonstrate a similar effect in humans. The development of an HIV vaccine would have a major impact on our fight to end the HIV epidemic globally.’

Ian Howley, of UK-based gay men’s health charity GMFA, said, ‘What this shows us is that we are moving in the right direction and finding a cure for HIV is now not if, but when.

‘But with every step forward we must remain cautious and do our best not to lose focus on stopping new diagnosis. A cure may be still another 10-20 years away so we recommend that all sexually active gay and bisexual men continue to find safer sex strategy that best fits your sex life.’

See also

How close are we to a cure for HIV?

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