New antibody attacks 99% of HIV strainsImage copyrightSPLScientists have engineered an antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains and can prevent infection in primates.
Our bodies struggle to fight HIV because of the virus' incredible ability to mutate and change its appearance.There varieties of HIV - or strains - in a single patient are comparable to those of influenza during a worldwide flu season.
Super-antibodiesBut after years of infection, a small number of patients develop powerful weapons called "broadly neutralising antibodies" that attack something fundamental to HIV and can kill large swathes of HIV strains.
The study, published in the journal Science, combines three such antibodies into an even more powerful "tri-specific antibody".Dr Gary Nabel, the chief scientific officer at Sanofi and one of the report authors, told the BBC News website: "They are more potent and have greater breadth than any single naturally occurring antibody that's been discovered."The best naturally occurring antibodies will target 90% of HIV strains.
"As a doctor in Africa, I feel the urgency to confirm these findings in humans as soon as possible."Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it was an intriguing approach.He added: "Combinations of antibodies that each bind to a distinct site on HIV may best overcome the defences of the virus in the effort to achieve effective antibody-based treatment and prevention."Follow James on Twitter.
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