New immunotherapy, which combines two types of antibodies, suppressed the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of AIDS, for up to four months, according to a team of scientists at Rockefeller University in the United States. The researchers studied the effect of this neutralizing antibody treatment, which combines two known antibodies against HIV, first in animals and then in people.
Scientists identified these antibodies, called 3BNC117 and 10-1074, by analyzing those that naturally produces in the bodies of some HIV carriers who can fight the virus without the aid of drugs. The researchers, including Marina Caskey and Michel Nussenzweig, found that this formulation “is safer and more effective than any previous immunotherapy.”
Previous studies with only one of these antibodies had managed to reduce the level of the virus in the blood, but the effect was limited, as HIV eventually mutated to resist. But after testing the effectiveness of the new therapy in animals, they administered the two types of antibodies to a group of patients, three times a week, for six weeks, and in the case of nine subjects, the treatment suppressed the HIV for an average of 21 weeks, and in other cases for 30 weeks.
As detailed by scientists in the study published in Nature, in the second study with “viremic” patients (with the virus actively circulating in the bloodstream), the compound reduced virus levels for three or even four months.
The new immunotherapy against HIV is effective and long-lasting
The researchers explained that HIV is now a manageable medical condition, but it requires patients to medicate every day and not forget to do so, as this would increase the likelihood of transmission. That’s why scientists, like the Rockefeller University’s team, are struggling to find an effective, long-lasting drug that doesn’t depend on daily doses. The newly-developed immunotherapy against HIV might be it.
Caskey and Nussenzweig noted, however, that treatment they created “has its limitations” because HIV occurs in different strains that do not always respond to the same antibodies.
“These two antibodies won’t work for everyone, but if we start combining this treatment with other antibodies or with antiretroviral drugs, it could be effective for more people,” said Caskey. “Now, the expectation is that we will get new variants that have a three- to four-fold longer effect,” added Michel Nussenzweig, so that the doctors could administer the immunotherapy to the patients only once or twice a year.