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Hope: Newly engineered antibody targets 99 percent of HIV strains

SCIENCE
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The "tri-specific antibody" attacks the virus in 3 different areas.

A collaboration between the US National Institute of Health and the pharmaceutical company Sanofi has resulted in the creation of a new antibody, which targets 99 oercent of HIV strains. The antibody was built to attack three crucial parts of the virus, making it harder for the virus to evolve and lowering its resistance.

The greatest challenge researchers face in determining the best strategy to fight HIV is the virus’ propensity to shift and evolve — to change its appearance, creating various strains. BBC reminds us that the variant strains of HIV in a single infected patient can be equivalent to the number of strains of influenza during a worldwide flu season.

Breakthroughs came about after a small group of patients developed “broadly neutralizing antibodies,” sometimes called “super-antibodies.” Researchers use these to treat and prevent infection.

BBC reports that the study, published in the journal Science, involved combining three such antibodies into a “tri-specific antibody” that Dr. Gary Nabel, Chief Scientific Officer at Sanofi, claims has “greater breadth than any single naturally occurring antibody that has been discovered.”

So far, the research team is in the animal testing phase of development. Experiments on 24 monkeys have revealed that those exposed to the “tri-specific antibodies” did not become infected when later injected with HIV. Human trials are expected to begin some time in 2018.

Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci was intrigued by the approach, saying, “Combinations of antibodies that each bind to a distinct site on HIV may best overcome the defenses of the virus in the effort to achieve effective antibody-based treatment and prevention.”

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