Updated 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Highly effective antibody against HIV identified

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced a few weeks ago that a “remarkable” breakthrough has been made in the study of preventing and treating the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

This monoclonal antibody is known as VRC01 and initially used in primates was cloned from people with AIDS and neutralized several virus types from Africa, America, and Asia, in a way necessary to be effective in humans.

In treatments with simians, some of these antibodies have demonstrated to protect against HIV for intracervical and vaginal infections. Researchers have not been able to research the same for the penis due to the difficulty of obtaining a sample of the area.

In tests carried out in more than 100 participants, they have not recorded any secondary effects. A person needs to be vaccinated with the virus every two months, although the ideal scenario would be to guarantee its effect for six months.

Researchers have had previous success with other antibodies, but N6 appears to be more effective, neutralizing 16 of the 20 strains which have so far resisted all kinds of medication.

For example, in 2010, an antibody called VRC01 was discovered by scientists at NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC). VRC01 blocks approximately 90 percent of HIV strains from infecting human cells.

“Like VRC01, N6 blocks infection by binding to a part of the HIV envelope called the CD4 binding site, preventing the virus from attaching itself to immune cells,” NIAID explains.

The new discovery has potential benefits far beyond preventing and treating HIV as well. Studying exactly how N6 works could potentially lead to breakthroughs in other anti-viral antibodies.

“The scientists, led by Mark Connors, M.D., of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), also tracked the evolution of N6 over time to understand how it developed the ability to potently neutralize nearly all HIV strains,” the press release states. “This information will help inform the design of vaccines to elicit such broadly neutralizing antibodies.”

Finally, UNAIDS has claimed that there were approximately 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2015. Of these, 1.8 million were children younger than 15 years old. It was also reported that majority of these patients come from low- and middle-income countries. As of the present time, it has been estimated that only 54 percent of people infected by the virus are aware of their status.

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