Scientists find antibodies that fight HIV
A team of scientists based at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla reports today in Science that antibodies that block the activity of HIV have been found in an African patient.
Crucial to the discovery is the fact that the antibodies target a portion of HIV that researchers had not considered in their search for a vaccine.
Moreover, the target is a relatively stable portion of the virus that does not participate in the extensive mutations that have made HIV able to escape from antiviral drugs and previous experimental vaccines.
To find the neutralizing antibodies, researchers collected blood samples from more than 1,800 people in Thailand, Australia and Africa who had been infected with HIV for at least three years without the infection proceeding to severe disease.
Such individuals are most likely to produce antibodies that interfere with the replication of the virus. [LA Times]
Potentially, the antibodies themselves could be used to treat infected patients. However, the long-term goal is to find or synthesize a molecule that can stimulate the body to produce these antibodies on its own. Molecules that could be the basis for a vaccine.
The researchers are not there yet of, course, but general directions have been provided now for where a vaccine might be found.