A version of this post originally appeared on Natural Medicine. Reposted with permission.
A new study published in the on line journal Nature Medicine over the weekend brings exciting news in the race to find an AIDS vaccine. Researchers from the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) have found that a key change in the outer coating of the HIV virus allowed two HIV positive women to develop “broadly neutralizing antibodies,” which are antibodies that can be used to target and fight most strains of HIV.
The first broadly neutralizing antibodies were discovered over three years ago, and since then dozens more have been identified. But until now, researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint how they develop, which is critical to developing a vaccine. The new findings establish a link between a change in the virus after infection and the formulation of the antibodies that fight it.
According to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the study is “an important step in trying to understand just how these broadly neutralizing antibodies evolve.”
This is very promising news, but it will most likely be a while before a vaccine is developed. According to experts at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, clinical trials based on broadly neutralizing antibodies are expected to begin in the next two to three years.
As a global leader in the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, FHI 360 is excited by the broadly neutralizing antibody findings. “This finding is a breakthrough in HIV/AIDS research and will add greatly to the gains that have been made in the last few years toward finding a vaccine,” said Tim Mastro, MD, FHI 360’s Group Director of Global Health, Population & Nutrition. “In the meantime, staff at FHI 360 will continue to work with the global HIV/AIDS community to implement HIV prevention, care and treatment programs, manage research and clinical trials, and develop innovative methods of HIV prevention.”