Infants can quickly produce novel antibodies that protect against HIV.
Mimicking infection and immune responses in infants may help accelerate the development of an HIV vaccine.
Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center used samples taken from infants in Nairobi who were born from HIV-positive mothers before the advent of antiretroviral drugs. Researchers found that novel antibodies that protect against the many variants of HIV could be produced rather quickly after infection in infants compared with adults.
Infants are able to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies within the first year of HIV infection. This means it requires significantly less somatic hypermutation to produce a broadly neutralizing antibody that would be found in adults.
The study also showed a single antibody does not dominate the antibody response, but instead seems to be polyclonal. Researchers believe this may make it harder to evade.
“We could document a case in infants where a broadly neutralizing antibody developed in a time frame and in a way that is something that we could consider mimicking with a vaccine,” said researcher Julie Overbaugh.
Researchers noted that these key differences between an infant’s immune response to HIV could provide more information on how the HIV vaccine design can be improved.