An antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains and could even prevent infection in primates has been developed by scientists for the first time.
The antibody works by attacking three critical parts of the virus, making it harder for HIV to resist its effects.
The major breakthrough could eventually lead to treatment or even prevent transmission of the virus, with trials on humans set to begin as early as next year.
Scientists from the US National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical company Sanofi collaborated to develop the antibody that has been deemed an ‘exciting breakthrough’.
As humans, we struggle to fight HIV because of the virus’ ability to mutate and change its appearance.
These strains of HIV have the effect of giving the same symptoms as the flu as the body tries to fight against it.
But a small number of patients have the ability to develop ‘broadly neutralising antibodies’, which bind to structures on the surface of the pathogens known as ‘spikes’.
Spikes rarely change and are identical among different strains, making it possible for these special antibodies to attack different mutations of the virus.
And that’s where scientists have been able to intervene and combine three of these flexible antibodies into a powerful ‘tri-specific antibody’.
Dr Gary Nabel, chief scientific officer at Sanofi and one of the report authors, told BBC News: ‘They are more potent and have greater breadth than any single naturally occurring antibody that’s been discovered.
‘We’re getting 99% coverage, and getting coverage at very low concentrations of the antibody.’
Scientists developed the antibody after injecting 24 monkeys with HIV and then analyzing them to see if they developed the virus after being given the new type of antibody. None of them developed HIV.
The research was also carried out by scientists at Harvard Medical School, The Scripps Research Institute, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Prof Linda-Gail Bekker, the president of the International Aids Society, told the site: ‘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.’
Source: Metro Online
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