New antibodies effective at preventing HIV infection in primates
In what has been described by the International AIDS Society as a “promising breakthrough”, scientists have developed a new antibody that may be effective in preventing and treating infection from the HIV virus.
One of the major problems facing the development of an effective HIV treatment is the genetic diversity of the virus. The HIV virus rapidly mutates so that a single patient can become infected with many different strains, each of which reacts to different antibodies.
The “trispecific antibodies” developed by the scientists in this study, published in ‘Science’, are a combination of three “broadly neutralising antibodies”. These are a type of antibody developed by a small number of HIV patients to try to fight the infection but are not effective against all strains of the virus.
The trispecific antibodies interact with the virus in three different ways and are able to attack 99% of HIV strains. The study investigated their effectiveness in primates; the antibodies were given to 24 monkeys who were then infected with the HIV virus. Subsequent HIV tests revealed that none of the monkeys had become infected.
The antibody may also prove to be an effective treatment for those already infected with HIV.
The treatment is still in the early stages of development, however, and 94% of drugs that pass animal tests will fail during human clinical trials. These are expected to start next year.
Currently there is no cure for HIV and lifelong treatment is required in order for patients to be able to lead relatively normal lives. Alarmingly, 17% of people with the virus are completely unaware that they have it. Not only does this delay the start of treatment, but it also helps the virus spread.
If you believe that you may have been exposed to the virus, it is essential that you get tested as soon as possible. We offer completely confidential private HIV testing at our STD clinics, as well as through our discrete mobile testing service and our postal tests – which are sent to a laboratory to ensure reliability.