with a human antibody appears to reduce levels of the HIV virus in the blood
for at least a month, preliminary research suggests.
More potent than previous attempts
are the part of the immune system that develop to fight infections. Use of
these antibodies as a treatment is called immunotherapy.
antibody "might be able to intensify current treatment strategies,"
said study co-author Dr. Florian Klein an assistant professor of clinical
investigation at Rockefeller University in New York City, especially since this
new treatment appears to be more potent than previous attempts at HIV
Read: Radio immunotherapy destroys HIV-infected cells
researchers acknowledged that this antibody treatment would have to be combined
with HIV drugs or another antibody.
much more research is needed before this treatment could even be used as an
add-on therapy. The current study represents just the first level of three
phases of research required of drugs before they can be approved in the United
States. It's also possible that more side effects might become evident as more
people try the treatment.
far, researchers haven't been able to turn immunotherapy into a weapon against
HIV – the virus that causes Aids – although there's been research into its
use both as a treatment and as a vaccine to prevent infection.
the meantime, another kind of treatment has revolutionized the treatment of HIV
over the past 20 years or so: antiretroviral medications. These medications
have turned HIV from a fatal diagnosis into a chronic disease. They work by
disrupting the machinery that allows the virus to replicate and enter cells.
Levels of virus significantly reduced
work a bit differently. They "can bind to critical areas on the virus that
are required to infect human cells," Klein explained. "If these sites
are blocked by the antibody, the virus cannot infect them. Moreover, antibodies
can bind to the virus and engage other immune cells of the patient to eliminate
the new study, researchers turned to an antibody known as 3BNC117 that targets
HIV. These type of antibodies are only produced naturally by about 10 percent
to 30 percent of people with HIV, according to the researchers.
injected the immunotherapy into 12 people without HIV and 17 infected people.
The participants were almost all men. They were between 22 and 58 years old,
and about half were black.
researchers reported that the levels of virus in infected patients who got the
highest doses were "significantly reduced" for 28 days. The study
says the treatment was "generally safe and well-tolerated" without
serious side effects.
for cost, Klein acknowledges that antibodies are expensive, although he didn't
estimate its potential cost. The study itself says antibodies cost more than
current HIV treatments, although it notes that antibodies last a long time in
the body and could potentially be made even more effective.
Minimal side effects
potential benefit to this treatment is that it would likely only require an
injection every few months. Current HIV treatments have to be taken on a daily
basis, the researchers said.
Read: Early HIV treatment best
Pantophlet, an associate professor with the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon
Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, said the study is important
because it confirms the power of antibodies to suppress the virus in the blood.
"The side effects seem to be generally minimal and what is likely to be
expected from this kind of human antibody," he said.
for who might benefit from the treatment, Pantophlet said it may help people
who develop resistance to existing antiretroviral drugs. Considering the
potential for a higher cost than existing drugs, he said, "I suspect that
they will be reserved for select infected individuals and would not be for all
next? Klein said studies are in the works to determine if antibodies boost
existing treatments and if they can also help patients who aren't on those
study was published April 8 in the journal Nature.
New treatment may eradicate HIV
HIV treatment puzzle solved
TB drug hampers HIV treatment
- Florian Klein, M.D., M.Sc., assistant professor of clinical
investigation, Laboratory of Molecular Immunology, The Rockefeller University,
New York City;
- Ralph Pantophlet, Ph.D., associate professor, Faculty of Health
Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C.;
- April 8, 2015, Nature.
Image: HIV/Aids puzzle from Shutterstock