Antibody Neutralizes 98 Percent of HIV Strains

Researchers have identified an antibody that can neutralize 98% of HIV strains, and may serve as a potential candidate for future HIV treatment and prevention.

Researchers have identified an antibody that can neutralize 98% of HIV strains, and may serve as a potential candidate for future HIV treatment and prevention.

In the HIV research world, identifying broadly neutralizing antibodies is challenging because the virus rapidly changes its surface proteins to avoid being recognized by the immune system.

Back in 2010, researchers of the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) identified the VRC01 protein, which has the ability to stop up to 90% of HIV strains from infecting human cells.

In the current study published in Immunity, the newly identified antibody N6, was also found to block infection by binding to the CD4 binding site, preventing the virus from attaching itself to immune cells.

Findings from the study showed that N6 evolved a unique mode of binding that was less dependent on the V5 region of the HIV envelope and more focused on conserved regions, which change very little among HIV strains.

This allows N6 to tolerate changes in the HIV envelope, including the attachment of sugars in the V5 region. This is a mechanism by which HIV develops resistance to other VCR01-class antibodies, according to the study.

Currently, VCR01 is being assessed in clinical trials as intravenous infusions to see if it can safely prevent HIV infection in humans. However, because of N6’s potency, its use may have an advantage over VRC01 by serving as a stronger and more durable prevention and treatment benefit.

Authors noted that N6 may even be able to be administered subcutaneously rather than intravenously, and holds more promise being able to neutralize nearly all HIV strains, including 16 of 20 strains resistant to other antibodies of the same class.