Federal researchers have discovered two antibodies that may bring about the renaissance of HIV and AIDS treatment. The antibodies, VRC01 and VRC02, can kill up to 90 percent of HIV strains, compared to a 30 or 40 kill percentage in previously found antibodies. The researchers' findings were published in the Science journal this month.
"I am more optimistic about an AIDS vaccine at this point in time than I have been probably in the last 10 years," Dr. Gary Nabel of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases tells Reuters. "We're going to be at this for a while." The antibodies are naturally created by some infected patients once AIDS sets in, but at that point it's too late. Researchers hope that by studying these antibodies, they will be able to create new treatments, or even a successful AIDS vaccine.
VRC01 and VRC02 attach themselves to a spike on the HIV virus that is normally used to attach to human cells. Due to its purpose, the spike is relatively unchanged in all strains of HIV, leading to the tremendous efficacy of the antibodies. Currently, over 33 million people are infected with HIV, and 25 million have died since the late 1980s.
"What that is telling us is that you can identify the portion of the virus that you would like to use as a vaccine, because we know that when the antibodies bind to that portion, it knock down the virus," said Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. institute of infectious diseases.