Scientists have discovered a new antibody-based therapy that could reduce the amount of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) present in the blood of an infected person, as published today in the journal Nature.
Researchers at Rockefeller University (USA) would have carried out the first test on a man of a new generation of so-called broadly neutralizing antibodies, capable of fighting many strains of HIV.
In a person infected with HIV there is a fight between the virus and the immune system, which defends against the external agent that invaded the body, explained Marina Coaskey, co-author of the study.
Despite the fact that the body produces antibodies to attack the virus, it is constantly mutating to escape and remains at all times just a few steps ahead of the antibodies.
This new research concluded that administering an antibody called potent 3BNC117 "may surprise HIV with its low guard and reduce its viral load," said the researcher.
"What's so special about these antibodies is that they're acting against more than 80 percent of HIV cases and the strains are extremely powerful," said Caskey.
Widely neutralizing antibodies occur naturally between 10% and 30% of people with HIV, but do so only several years after infection.
At that time, the virus has evolved enough to escape these powerful antibodies.
Scientists have isolated and cloned the 3BNC117 antibody "obtained from long-term patients and have been applied to more recently infected individuals in order to test their efficacy.
Previous research has already demonstrated the role of these antibodies in suppressing infection in mice, but this is the first time that the new generation of antibodies against HIV is tested in humans.
According to the study, 3BNC117, as with other antiretroviral agents, is most likely to be used in combination with other antibodies or drugs to keep infections under control.
"An antibody alone, as a drug alone, will not be enough to suppress viral load for a long period of time because the resistance will arise," said Caskey.
In addition to the possibility of treatment, this study also raises hopes to create a vaccine against the HIV virus, since this therapy can help block the infection before it can develop the disease.