Scientists create ‘three-in-one’ antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains
A new antibody that attacks 99 per cent of strains of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has been developed in the US.
During trials, the anitbody protected monkeys from two forms of SHIV, the primate form of HIV, in 24 primates.
It works by binding to three critical sites on the virus, making it harder for HIV to resist its attack. It is known as a ‘broadly neutralising antibody’ because it can attack many forms of HIV, even when the virus changes shape.
“They are more potent and have greater breadth than any single naturally occurring antibody that’s been discovered,” Dr Gary Nabel, the chief scientific officer at Sanofi and one of the report authors, told the BBC.
As a comparison, and to put this research into perspective, the best natural antibodies previously developed attack 90 per cent of strains, while this new ‘trispecific’ antibody attacks 99 per cent.
While this is a promising result, the treatment has not been tested in humans yet. The companies are now planning to start clinical trials, using the antibody on people with and without HIV.
“Combinations of antibodies that each bind to a distinct site on HIV may best overcome the defenses of the virus in the effort to achieve effective antibody-based treatment and prevention,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of NIH.
“The concept of having a single antibody that binds to three unique sites on HIV is certainly an intriguing approach for investigators to pursue.”
“This paper reports an exciting breakthrough,” Prof Linda-Gail Bekker, the president of the International Aids Society. “These super-engineered antibodies seem to go beyond the natural and could have more applications than we have imagined to date.”
The results of the study, by the US National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical company Sanofi, are published in Science.
Thankfully, HIV is not the life sentence it once was. This latest breakthrough joins a line of research into curing and treating the virus.
In October, the NHS working with immunologists at UK universities reported that the first patient being treated in an HIV study had shown “remarkable” results, with no sign of the virus after initial treatment.
Then, at the start of May, researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) and the University of Pittsburgh found they could remove HIV DNA from genomes of living animals – in this case, mice – using gene-editing tool CRISPR.