A clinical trial in a small group of HIV-1 infected patients has provided the first direct proof in humans that antibodies can control the virus -- but only for a very short time, as reported in the June issue of Nature Medicine.
Alexandra Trkola and colleagues administered a cocktail of three monoclonal anti-HIV antibodies to 8 patients with chronic HIV infection and 6 patients with acute infection, during a period in which they were not receiving any other drugs. In a subset of the patients, the weekly antibody treatment suppressed the virus, but eventually HIV regained the upper hand. The authors determined that only one of the three antibodies was responsible for the temporary control, that very high levels of antibody were required, and eventually, the virus mutated to escape this control.
This trial shows that antibodies are unlikely to be useful as part of a therapeutic strategy in people who are already infected with HIV. But because the antibodies were able to transiently control the virus in some patients, the study fuels the hope that they may be effective at preventing infection as part of a prophylactic vaccine strategy -- provided sufficiently high levels of the right kind of antibodies can be generated.
Alexandra Trkola (University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland)
Online publication can be accessed by clicking here.
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
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