Novel HIV vaccine strategy…
HIV infection is responsible for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) when it reaches an advanced stage. This syndrome results in a general weakening of the immune system, making the body more susceptible to opportunistic infectionsor certain types of cancer. This retrovirus has been responsible for over 40 million deaths worldwide. In the absence of a complete cure, current antiretroviral treatments aim to prevent the virus from replicating and give the immune system a chance to strengthen itself.
No vaccine has yet been developed, mainly because of the speed with which the virus mutates. However, a team has just obtained very promising results in 48 healthy subjects during a phase 1 trial, published in Science a few days ago. This new strategy is based on the use of broad-spectrum neutralizing antibodies, as they are more flexible and able to inactivate several variants of the virus. However, these antibodies had never been used in humans before. The safety profile of the vaccine was favorable and the expected response, i.e., the activation of the B lymphocytes that generate these particular antibodies, was visible in 97% of the vaccinated subjects.
This discovery represents a major advance and a first step towards the development of an HIV vaccine. Indeed, many steps are still needed, such as determining whether effective broad spectrum neutralizing antibodies can be induced by this strategy.