HIV an­ti­body ther­apy looks promis­ing

Pakistan Observer - - KARACHI CITY -

ANEW study of the ef­fects of a new an ti­body treat­ment sug­gests it may of­fer a long-term so­lu­tion for the con­trol of HIV. There is no doubt that an­tiretro­vi­ral ther­apy (ART) for HIV has trans­formed what used to be a death sen­tence into a chronic con­di­tion, al­low­ing in­fected peo­ple to live decades longer.

But ART has its draw­backs, not only in terms of phys­i­cal side ef­fects such as de­creased bone den­sity and kid­ney prob­lems, but also in that stop­ping treat­ment or just miss­ing a few doses causes the virus to resurge. The new study, pub­lished in the jour­nal Sci­ence, con­cerns a dif­fer­ent and po­ten­tially su­pe­rior ap­proach, in the form of a last­ing im­munother­apy that trig­gers an in­fected per­son’s im­mune sys­tem to make an­ti­bod­ies against HIV and clear it from the body.

Dr. Till Schoofs, one of the study’s first au­thors, and a re­searcher in molec­u­lar im­munol­ogy at Rock­e­feller Univer­sity in New York, NY, says: “This study pro­vides ev­i­dence that a sin­gle dose of an an­ti­body stim­u­lates pa­tients’ im­mune re­sponse, en­abling them to make new or bet­ter an­ti­bod­ies against the virus.”

Last year, the team re­ported that the same treat­ment, based on a mol­e­cule called 3BNC117, can greatly re­duce the amount of virus present in a pa­tient’s blood. The new study re­ports the re­sults of fol­low­ing the pa­tients for a longer pe­riod of time to see how their im­mune sys­tems are cop­ing with the new ther­apy, ex­plains Dr. Schoofs.

3BNC117 is called a broadly neu­tral­iz­ing an­ti­body be­cause it can fight more than 80 per­cent of the over 200 strains of HIV that in­fect peo­ple around the world. The mol­e­cule was iso­lated several years ago from a pa­tient whose im­mune sys­tem showed ex­cep­tional abil­ity in stop­ping the virus from in­fect­ing and killing CD4 im­mune cells, the de­struc­tion of which is a hall­mark of AIDS.

For the phase I clin­i­cal trial, the re­searchers gave 15 pa­tients with high blood lev­els of HIV a sin­gle in­jec­tion of 3BNC117. Then, 6 months later, 14 of the pa­tients were mak­ing new an­ti­bod­ies that were able to neu­tral­ize a num­ber of dif­fer­ent strains of HIV. An­other group of un­treated pa­tients - whose HIV was con­trolled with ART - showed lit­tle change in their neu­tral­iz­ing ac­tiv­ity over the same pe­riod, note the au­thors, who con­clude that “3BNC117-me­di­ated im­munother­apy en­hances host hu­moral im­mu­nity to HIV-1.”

HIV-1 is the pre­dom­i­nant strain of HIV that causes the vast ma­jor­ity of global HIV in­fec­tions. When peo­ple talk about HIV, they usu­ally mean HIV-1. Dr. Schoofs sug­gests that since it usu­ally takes years for the body to start mak­ing good an­ti­bod­ies against HIV, it could be that the ef­fect of 3BNC117 in­creases with time, es­pe­cially if the pa­tient re­ceives more than one dose. In an­other study pub­lished at the same time in the same jour­nal, re­searchers in­ves­ti­gate whether 3BNC117 of­fers fur­ther ben­e­fits com­pared with ART.

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