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First human HIV-antibody trials, results are promising

HIV broadly neutralizing antibodies

While there is no cure for HIV, a select few known as HIV controllers can literally live with it. Over the years work has been done trying to figure out what makes these individuals so special and it has helped researchers in the fight against HIV. While we are still searching for a vaccine, researchers have now found that a single infusion of an experimental anti-HIV antibody called 3BNC117 resulted in significantly decreased HIV levels that persisted for as long as 28 days in HIV-infected individuals, according to Phase 1 clinical trial findings.

Before its first-in-human testing, the 3BNC117 antibody had neutralized many diverse HIV strains in laboratory tests and had protected humanized mice and macaques from HIV and its simian equivalent (hence the common term, broadly neutralizing antibodies). To determine if the investigational product would be safe and potentially effective in people, the research team conducted a small clinical trial among 29 volunteers, 17 HIV-infected and 12 uninfected individuals.

Study participants received a single intravenous dose of 3BNC117 of 1, 3, 10 or 30 milligrams. The investigational product was well-tolerated by all participants. Among HIV-infected participants, 3BNC117 had the greatest effect on the eight participants who received the highest dose, resulting in significant and rapid decreases in viral load. Unfortunately HIV resistance to 3BNC117 was variable, but some individuals remained sensitive to the antibody for 28 days.

Based on the findings, the authors conclude that 3BNC117 is safe in people and can have a substantial effect on controlling HIV levels and should, therefore, be explored further for use in HIV prevention and treatment. Additionally, in the future the investigational antibody may be used to help eradicate HIV from latent reservoirs in an infected person’s body.

What this means for those people who suffer from HIV is that we are close to coming out with a new way to help treat and maybe even eliminate the virus from the body — which is certainly the holy grail of anti-HIV research. It is unfortunate that HIV mutates so quickly because the variable resistance seen by this small group is telling for the future of this antibody.

HIV won’t be easy to get rid of, that much is clear. Unlike other viruses HIV mutates at an incredible rate and until we can find a way to alter the human body in a way that either controls or halts HIV reproduction we cannot expect to have a viable cure. At least not for any real length of time. That’s the problem with evolution — and frankly proof that evolution is very real — as we fight HIV, it evolves to survive — quite rapidly, making the fight that much harder compared to other viruses we’ve conquered with vaccines. We need to find some way to evolve with it if we are to ever completely eradicate it. But that dear reader, is just my humble opinion.

Caskey, M., Klein, F., Lorenzi, J., Seaman, M., West, A., Buckley, N., Kremer, G., Nogueira, L., Braunschweig, M., Scheid, J., Horwitz, J., Shimeliovich, I., Ben-Avraham, S., Witmer-Pack, M., Platten, M., Lehmann, C., Burke, L., Hawthorne, T., Gorelick, R., Walker, B., Keler, T., Gulick, R., Fätkenheuer, G., Schlesinger, S., & Nussenzweig, M. (2015). Viraemia suppressed in HIV-1-infected humans by broadly neutralizing antibody 3BNC117 Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature14411

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