Newly Identified Antibody Neutralizes 98% of HIV Strains, Scientists Reveal
An incredible finding has been made by scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
A newly identified antibody has the potential to neutralized 98 percent of HIV strains tested.
Because of the sheer potency of this antibody, named N6, researchers believe it could lead to potent new methods of HIV prevention and treatment.
The scientists, led by Mark Connors, M.D., of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), also tracked the evolution of N6 over time to understand how it developed the ability to potently neutralize nearly all HIV strains. This information will help inform the design of vaccines to elicit such broadly neutralizing antibodies.
Identifying broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV has been difficult because the virus rapidly changes its surface proteins to evade recognition by the immune system. In 2010, scientists at NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC) discovered an antibody called VRC01 that can stop up to 90 percent of HIV strains from infecting human cells. Like VRC01, N6 blocks infection by binding to a part of the HIV envelope called the CD4 binding site, preventing the virus from attaching itself to immune cells.
The new findings suggest that N6 could pose advantages over VRC01, which currently is being assessed as intravenous infusions in clinical trials to see if it can safely prevent HIV infection in humans. Due to its potency, N6 may offer stronger and more durable prevention and treatment benefits, and researchers may be able to administer it subcutaneously (into the fat under the skin) rather than intravenously. In addition, its ability to neutralize nearly all HIV strains would be advantageous for both prevention and treatment strategies.