New antibody may result in HIV vaccine

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Scientists have now created a new antibody that could be used to treat or prevent HIV. This antibody, composed of a combination of three different antibodies, should attack three critical parts of the virus. It has proven to be 99% effective in combating more than 200 HIV strains. Clinical trials with monkeys also proved successful, and the new antibody prevented primates from contracting the virus.

All of this research was conducted by the United States National Institutes of Health and the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi. Human clinical trials are expected to begin by the end of 2018.

And, if everything goes as expected, this antibody could be used as a continuous treatment or as a vaccine, according to the article published this week in the journal Science.

“There is certainly an urgent need for a vaccine and this can help fill that gap”, Gary Nabel, the scientific director of Sanofi, told Reuters. “But we need to do clinical studies and let nature tell us what works”.

Unlike the antibodies that the body naturally produces, this 3-in-1 antibody simultaneously attacks various parts of the virus. This is especially advantageous when taking into account the wide variety of HIV strains and the high mutational capacity of the virus.

The new antibody “is more potent and acts more widely than any natural antibody ever discovered”, Nabel told the BBC.

While a natural antibody targets 90% of the HIV strains, the new antibody “we are having 99% coverage and even with low antibody concentrations”, the researcher added.

During clinical trials, the researchers injected 24 monkeys with two strains of the HIV virus. None of the primates that received the new 3-in-1 antibody contracted the infection, unlike monkeys that were only protected by other antibodies.

The researchers say that this type of antibody can be useful in fighting diseases such as cancer, infectious diseases and also autoimmune diseases.

“This is the principle of a technology platform that could be adapted to other diseases so let’s study it carefully”, Nabel told Reuters.

The International AIDS Society described this study as an “exciting discovery”.

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