The HIV virus has been proven to be one of the toughest “opponents”. Since its discovery back in 1959, when the virus caused the first documented death, it has managed to elude every single obstacle we have thrown in its way. From vaccines to the latest gene treatment methods, the virus just mutates in a very short period of time when compared to other similar medical conditions, and renders our weapons against it useless. However, results from a new test are here to offer hope once more.
A research team from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the United States of America has managed to make a group of Rhesus macaque monkeys immune to HIV by injecting them with specific antibodies that are intended to fight the virus. Even though the average duration of the protection was around twelve to fourteen weeks, there were monkeys that resisted a potential infection for up to twenty-three weeks, which is a little less than six months. On the contrary, the monkeys that were not given the antibodies got infected in roughly twenty days.
Administering antibodies is totally different from the way a vaccine works. A vaccine contains a weak and harmless version of the virus allowing the body to create antibodies to fight it. That way, the person’s immune system becomes stronger and is capable of neutralizing the threat and can even do so against the “normal” version of the virus. However, during the clinical trials of the HIV vaccines, a significant number of subjects were infected with the virus even though it was weak.
The antibodies method has no danger since there is no part of the pathogen entering the bloodstream.
In this latest effort, the scientists isolated four different antibodies that have been proven to be effective against HIV. But, given the very early stage of the test, only one of them was used to allow the researchers to study and document the results in detail.
There is a scheduled trial that will include more than 2.500 people from many different countries that is going to use VRC01, one of the aforementioned antibody types.
This is probably the start of a very long fight against the virus that is affecting the lives of millions of people around the world. No matter how hard we have tried so far, the results have been negative. Each breakthrough offers new ways to try and reach our goal, and all we can do is hope that soon HIV will be defeated.