An international group of scientists has successfully tested monkeys an antibody that protects against HIV. This progress is a further step in the search for a vaccine against the AIDS virus, which researchers have been working for years.
Protecting people from HIV is a major challenge for scientists because of the wide variety of strains the virus has on the one hand and the difficulty of identifying neutralizing antibodies on the other. These antibodies, called bnAbs, are proteins produced by the body that have the ability to recognize and destroy different variants of the virus.
The bnAbs may be natural, they have been isolated from infected individuals. However, in this case they have a limited effect because some variants of the virus develop resistance. The antibody that has produced this kit has been created in the laboratory and is especially effective because it uses three binding pathways on the infectious agent. In the tests it has shown that it can prevent in monkeys the infection of two strains of the simian AIDS virus, and braked more strains than the natural antibodies.
To produce the antibody, scientists have combined different bnAbs with high neutralization potential to generate a more potent immune response. In particular the bnaBs VRC01, PGDM1400 and 10E8v4 have been used, and they have been able to stop 204 of the 208 tested strains. "Antibody combinations can better overcome the virus's defenses and achieve effective treatment and prevention," says Anthony S. Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the NIH. "A single antibody that binds to three sites other than HIV is an astute approach for upcoming investigations."
The team plans to start clinical trials in healthy people and patients with HIV by the end of 2018. They hope that the new triple antibody can be converted into a treatment and prevention system in the future.