The latest international news, analysis and features on the HIV epidemic from AVERT. Share your views and expertise with your peers in the comments box below the articles.
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.
Newly developed scanning techniques make it possible to identify where latent HIV is hiding in the body. This new development will create better opportunities to eradicate HIV from the body. Antiretroviral treatment (ART) is able to eradicate HIV from the blood, but as the virus returns when people stop taking treatment, HIV must be hiding somewhere in the body.
An engineered protein has been developed which has successfully blocked all known strains of HIV-1 and HIV-2 in a lab environment, and SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus) in monkeys. The protein, named eCD4-Ig, has been described as “the broadest and most potent entry inhibitor described so far”, and could form the basis of a vaccine alternative for HIV – either as a long-term preventative drug, or treatment that works to subdue HIV in the body.
In most countries, the local HIV epidemic is still dominated by the strain of HIV which first entered that specific population. There are several different strains of HIV, organised into types, groups and sub-types; however the global mixing of these different strains has so far been slow. New research in PLOS Computational Biology explains that this slow spread is caused by the first comer advantages, making it very difficult for an invasive strain to enter that same population.