The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the US says it has identified a potent antibody that is capable of neutralizing 98% of known strains of HIV.
The antibody, which has been named N6, was isolated in a person who has HIV.
They are excited about the discovery because N6 has shown effectiveness against 16 of 20 strains that had previously showed resistance to similar-class antibodies.
HIV has proved difficult to treat because parts of the virus can rapidly evolve to resist being attacked by the body’s immune system. However, N6 is believed to target a part of the virus that doesn’t tend to evolve or change.
It’s believed the discovery could bring us a little closer to developing a vaccine against HIV.
Commenting on the discovery, NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci said in a statement: “The discovery and characterization of this antibody with exceptional breadth and potency against HIV provides an important new lead for the development of strategies to prevent and treat HIV infection.”
The news follows an announcement earlier this month from researchers in Israel of a new drug that in laboratory tests destroyed 97% of HIV in the blood of HIV positive people.
In October, scientists in the UK revealed promising results of another test drug, with one patient showing no detectable HIV in his blood after being on the new medication for a month. They said they will know in a few months whether the result was truly caused by their new developmental medication.
In many countries, gay and bisexual men continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV. On the eve of National HIV Testing Week, the Terrence Higgins Trust in the UK revealed that 50,000 gay and bisexual men in the UK are now living with the virus, with one and seven being unaware of their condition.