Injection of antibodies protected monkeys from HIV for over 6 months

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A study published yesterday in Nature, shows that a very important step has been taken towards the development of a new treatment that may be able to prevent HIV infection in people. Since no vaccine has been generated yet, this could really come in handy as it could be an alternative to an HIV vaccine, what do u think?

From the study, it was discovered that a single injection of antibodies could prevent the contraction of HIV in macaques for a period of about 6 months. This was after four powerful antibodies that are known for neutralizing several strains of HIV were collected from HIV infected people, it was purified in the laboratory and injected into monkeys. Before then it had worked in mice. About a week after the macaques were infected with the antibodies, they were exposed to low doses of SIV/HIV at intervals, instead of the high dose that macaques were exposed to at once when previous treatments were used. It was discovered that the antibodies protected them against the virus for up to 6 months, whereas those that were not infected contracted the disease within a period of  3 weeks.Ruth Ruprecht, the director of AIDS Research program at Texas Biomedical Research Institute who was absent during the exercise said ” The result is surprising, I am astonished by how long protection lasted.”

From the study, we see that monkeys developed their own antibodies to fight the human antibodies and since the human antibodies injected into them could protect them for that long, it should protect humans even better.

Usually, the mechanism with which a vaccine works is that, weakened pathogens are injected into the body and the body learns to fight them by developing suitable antibodies.

This study is the first one to show that a single administration of these monoclonal antibodies can prevent infection, prevent disease, and might be a viable alternative for a vaccine against HIV. This is a new finding.

Malcolm Martin.
Co-author of the study, director, Viral Pathogenesis and Vaccine Section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Martin suggested that, they check to see if the method works in humans, after which an effective cocktail treatment could be looked into. So individuals with high risk of infection would be registered to test how well the antibodies will prevent them from getting infected. The results are to be expected in 2020 and if the results are impressive, antibodies would then be developed for effective preventive treatment.

Although there had been Preventive HIV medications such as PrEP which reduces the risk of contracting HIV through sexual intercourse by up to 90%, and retrovirals that prevents immediate access of the virus, the sad thing is that they are not always readily available and as for the PrEP which needs to be taken daily, some people take them only when they’ve had sex. Besides, as human beings we forget things, so many forget because they are not ill. This new treatment is a better option since it would stay active for a much longer time.

“With the extraordinary progress that’s been made just in the past six years, I’m more optimistic than ever that the field will eventually succeed in having an effective prevention measure, said David Montefiori, Director, Laboratory for AIDS Vaccine Research and Development at Duke University. Whether it’s the antibodies or an actual vaccine. Hopefully, we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel within the next 10 years.

Antibodies, also called immunoglobulins, are large Y-shaped proteins which function to identify and help remove foreign antigens or targets such as viruses and bacteria. Every different antibody recognizes a specific foreign antigen.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system, and weakens your ability to fight infections and disease overtime it becomes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive. Without treatment, average survival time after infection with HIV is estimated to be 9 to 11 years, depending on the HIV subtype. Infection with HIV occurs by the transfer of blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-ejaculate, or breast milk. Within these bodily fluids, HIV is present as both free virus particles and virus within infected immune cells.

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