A new antibody engineered by scientists could be used in the fight against HIV. After being tested on primates, human trials are set to begin in 2018 in what the International Aids Society has called an “exciting breakthrough.”
According to the World Health Organisation, 36.7 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS. In 2016, one million people died globally or HIV-related illnesses. Since the start of the epidemic, 35 million people have died of HIV, and with no current cure for the virus, this new antibody could have the potential to save millions of lives.
Prevent or Treat
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is very difficult for our bodies to fight because the virus mutates into different strains. The immune system is weakened by these multiple virus strains, and even if the body manages to battle one or more it’s impossible to attack them all. It can be compared to the flu virus – because there are so many different strains, even if you fight one you can still become ill from the same virus again.
Some patients do develop antibodies which can kill of many strains of HIV – these powerful tools have been named “broadly neutralising antibodies” and researchers have been trying to work out if they can be used in the global fight against the virus. This specific study in Science journal has combined three different broadly neutralising antibodies to create a super powerful “tri-specific antibody.” The engineered antibody can attack 99% of HIV strains, which is quite impressive.
It is not yet known whether this super-antibody which combines “broadly neutralising antibodies” will be effective as a preventative measure or to treat those already infected with HIV. The medical experiment is a partnership between pharmaceutical company Sanofi and the US National Institutes of Health.
Beacon of hope
With so many people across the world suffering from HIV and AIDs, this new antibody provides hope. The clinical trials to test the antibody in humans are due to start next year, and if successful there could be an antibody-based treatment and prevention plan in the pipeline. Hopefully, many lives could be saved if scientists find a way to beat the overwhelming amount of HIV strains.
Find out more about the research in Science Journal.