Scientists have successfully engineered and produced an antibody capable of attacking 99% of HIV strains. The U.S. National Institute of Health collaborated with pharmaceutical firm Sanofi in conducting the research. The International Aids Society deemed this development to be an “exciting breakthrough.” Trials on humans are expected to commence in 2018.
The human body struggles in fighting HIV due to the ability of the virus to mutate and change. Several unique strains can be concurrently present inside the body of a single patient. The virus readily mutates each time the human body’s immune system finds a way to fight it. Only a few of the HIV-infected people can develop a defense instrument called “broadly neutralizing antibodies.” These antibodies can simultaneously kill numerous HIV strains. Scientists have been trying to find means to develop broadly neutralizing antibodies.
Three unique antibodies were combined to produce the tri-specific antibody. The antibody is produced to attack three crucial parts of the virus. This enables its effectiveness in fighting the virus’ resistance. The HIV strains resemble and have the same symptoms as those of influenza while the body tries to attack it.
Dr. Gary Nabel, Sanofi’s chief scientific officer, told the BBC “They are more potent and have greater breadth than any single naturally occurring antibody that’s been discovered.” The best naturally occurring antibodies can only target 90% of HIV strains. The new type of antibody can target 99% of the strains at very low concentrations. Nabel said, “It was quite an impressive degree of protection.”
24 monkeys aided in the development of the antibody. The researchers injected them with HIV after giving them the new type of antibody. The experiment showed that none of the monkeys developed HIV.
The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, states that “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.”
Major advancements in the fight against HIV have been amazing for the past few decades. This includes educational campaigns about treatment methods in major parts of the world. There is a high demand for curing HIV and any discoveries that could help in the development of an Anti-HIV drug.
The research was conducted by scientists and researchers from Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Scripps Research Institute. According to the president of the International Aids Society, Prof. Linda-Gail Bekker, the report paper of the development was an exciting breakthrough in the field of medicine. Although it’s considered as a breakthrough, she also said that “the super-engineered antibodies seem to go beyond the natural and could have more applications than we have imagined to date.”