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HIV Update: Antibody Therapy Can be the New Face of HIV Treatment

May 09, 2016 12:06 PM EDT

Antibody therapy has been known as one of the most successful treatment for patients with hematological malignancies and solid tumors, but a new study shows that antibody therapy can also help in neutralizing the deadly human immunodeficiency virus or HIV.

At present, HIV patients can only use antiretroviral therapy, a combination of drugs that slows the replication of HIV in the body, to control HIV. But this kind of treatment, according to the press release of the study authors, poses dangerous side effects such as kidney problems, decreased bone density, and gastrointestinal problems. The virus also has the ability to rebound quickly if the patient discontinued the therapy.

Due to this, researchers from The Rockefeller University collaborated with the University of Cologne to develop a new kind of treatment utilizing an antibody-based drug that may have provide a better strategy for controlling HIV in the long run.

Their study, published in the journal Science, has presented positive results during its Phase 1 clinical trial, offering new insights about how antibody functions.

For the study, researchers used 3BNC117, or broadly neutralizing antibody. The antibody got its name due to its ability to neutralize more than 80 percent of all the HIV strains around the world.

During their clinical trial, researchers injected a single dose of 3BNC117 to 15 patients with high levels of HIV in their blood, while 12 other HIV-patients being using antiretroviral treatment served as the control group.

Researchers observed the patients over the course of six months. They then discovered that 14 out of 15 of the HIV patients infused with 3BNC117 were making new antibodies that were able to neutralize a number of different strains of HIV.

In hopes to better understand the effects 3BNC117 to HIV, researchers utilize a mathematical model of HIV dynamics predicting the difference in HIV level of the patients if the antibody did nothing else but to neutralize the HIV in the blood and block new infection.

After analyzing the results of their mathematical models, researchers found out that the neutralizing effect of 3BNC117 is not enough to explain the sudden drop HIV levels in the patients. Due to this, researchers suspect that the injected antibody must have another component contributing to its efficacy.

Nevertheless, the use of antibody therapy for HIV treatment has the potential to "address a major obstacle to curing HIV: the virus's ability to establish a latent reservoir soon after infection, and so hide out in the body and evade treatment," researchers said in a statement.

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