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HIV Update: Small Trial Shows Potential of a Human Antibody as Cure for HIV

Jun 26, 2016 10:58 AM EDT
Antiretroviral Drugs
A new small study involving 13 HIV-positive patients revealed that a human antibody called 3BNC117 has the potential to prevent the increase of viral load in the event the patient discontinued their retroviral medications.
(Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A new small study showed that a certain human antibody, which already has the potential to protect people against Human Immunodeficiency Virus, can help suppress viral rebound in HIV-positive patients who have stopped taking antiretroviral drugs.

The study, published in the journal Nature, revealed that injecting a neutralizing antibody called 3BNC117 to HIV patients can successfully prevent the increase of the viral load for more than a month even if they have discontinued their antiretroviral therapy.

"They were made originally by human beings and we have not modified them at all," said Michel Nussenzweig of Rockefeller University in New York, a corresponding author of the study, in a report from Voice of America. "So they are completely natural products and should not have major side effects. In fact, the people who received them so far - and it's a small number - have not reported any significant problems."

At present, the only choice of HIV patient to live a full life is to have a daily dose of antiretroviral medication. Once they discontinued their medication, the virus would only take about 18 days to bounce back.

For the study, researchers enrolled 12 HIV-positive patients. All patients discontinued their daily regimen of antiretroviral therapy. Researchers injected them with 3BNC117.

All of the patients in the small trial experience a delay in the rebound of HIV for at least five weeks after their last dose, which means the resurgence of the virus took twice as long as normal. Of those, six patients have a low viral load for more than nine weeks, three times the normal rebound rate of HIV.

According to the report from Los Angeles Times, None of the patients suffered from acute retroviral syndrome. Acute retroviral syndrome is flu-like symptoms of acute HIV infection that may appear approximately 1 to 4 weeks after infection. These symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes.

Researchers are now looking into the potential of 3BNC117 to totally cure HIV infection. However, researchers believe that the cure for HIV will not only need 3BNC117, but will also require combinations of antibodies working together.

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