According to a study published in Nature, a new therapy using antibodies in HIV patients reduced the presence of the virus by up to 300 times. It is the first proof of concept that an antibody-based therapy could be effective in controlling HIV infection according to Barry Zingman, M.D., the Medical Director of the AIDS Center and Clinical Director of Infectious Diseases at Montefiore Medical Center Moses Division.
The antibody treatment was injected in varying concentrations in 12 uninfected and 17 HIV-infected participants, who were then observed for 56 days. The greatest drops in viral load were seen in the eight infected patients who received the highest dose.
The immune system has a hard time fighting HIV because it must produce an antibody specific to each strain of the virus. When the body is able to finally produce the antibody, the virus has mutated to a strain the antibody cannot attack. The injected antibodies can target many different strains at once, 195 of 237 different HIV strains. Injecting an antibody into individuals before their bodies have produced their own gives the patient an edge.
Curing an infection is unlikely but there are other potential benefits in the future, including treating established HIV infection, preventing HIV infection at time of exposure, and treating patients with HIV that is resistant to current drugs.
“A single neutralizing antibody is unlikely to sustain HIV suppression for a long period,” said the study’s co-lead author, Florian Klein, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical investigation at The Rockefeller University’s Laboratory of Molecular Immunology. “Therefore, neutralizing antibodies are most likely to be used together with other neutralizing antibodies or currently available HIV medication.”