First successful use of synthetic antibodies against HIV in humans

10 April 2015
a picture of HIV

The first human trial with newly designed synthetic antibodies showed a 300-fold reduction of viral load in trial participants, as reported in the journal, Nature. The antibodies, known as 3BNC117, are designed to block the key viral protein receptor, HIV’s entry point into the blood cells. The designed antibody attaches itself to the proteins on the outside of HIV itself, making it difficult for the virus to connect to blood cells.

Participants in this trial were divided into three groups, each receiving different doses of the antibody. The eight patients who took the highest dose, showed up to a 300-fold decrease of viral load in their blood. At the end of the eight-week study, the viral load of half of the participants stayed below their starting levels. The antibody is a synthetic copy of antibodies produced in about 10 to 30 percent of the people living with HIV. Laboratory test have shown that the 3BNC117 antibody is effective at controlling 195 of the 237 different strains of HIV, making it so-called “broadly neutralising”, and one that could be used in many HIV patients. The researchers hope that these antibodies can help people living with HIV, who are in an early stage of infection, suppress the virus and make it easier to control the infection in combination with antiretroviral treatment.

This is the first time that this new generation of HIV antibodies have been successfully used in a human trial. Further trials could eventually lead to the use of antibodies in combination with antiretroviral treatment, to maintain a better control of the epidemic. The success of this trial will also help in the process of designing a vaccine, although the full development of an antibody to treat HIV may still take many years.

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