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Antibody therapy supresses HIV for months after treatment, study shows

Published on 01/10/18 at 10:14am

Researchers from the New York City based Rockefeller University have developed a novel immunotherapy, which is capable of suppressing HIV for months at a time.

Data from clinical trials suggests that the therapy, which combines two separate anti-HIV antibodies, is safer and more effective than previously tested antibody therapies. The results were published in the journals Nature and Nature Medicine.

While HIV is now a manageable condition, even the most effective drugs do not eliminate the virus entirely. As such if patients stop taking their treatment, the HIV virus can risk rising to dangerous levels. Thus patients with HIV must adhere to strict medication regimens for the entirety of their lives.

However the drugs, called bNAbs, suppressed the HIV virus for an average of 21 weeks, with some patients experiencing suppression of the virus for more than 30 weeks. The phase 1b clinical trial thus saw participants with HIV refrain from taking antiretroviral drugs and instead receive three infusions of the two bNAbs over the course of six weeks.

“If future studies are similarly successful, bNAbs could really become a practical alternative to ART, an alternative that would be safe and wouldn’t require a pill every day.” commented Marina Caskey who led the research.

The researchers were inspired to look into the particular antibodies 3BNC117 and 10-1074, after studying so-called “elite controllers”; individuals who were particularly resistant to HIV. In elite controllers, natural antibodies target proteins on the outside of the HIV virus and recruit the body’s immune system to assist in combatting the virus.

Thus the ultimate goal of bNAb therapy is to develop any individual with HIV into an elite controller.

“The expectation is that these new variants will have three- to four-fold longer half-lives, so we may be able to give the antibodies once or twice a year,” said Michel Nussenzweig, who co-led the study along with Caskey.

Louis Goss

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