Broadly Neutralising Antibodies against HIV
Infection with HIV causes progressive depletion of CD4+ cells, eventually culminating in AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). AIDS is a set of defining symptoms and illnesses which develop when the immune system of the HIV-infected individual has become too weak to fight off the virus, and include opportunistic infections of the lungs, liver, GI tract, lymphatic system and brain.
The development of an effective vaccine against HIV has been highly problematic due to the genetic diversity of the virus, yet after years of infection a small number of patients have developed “broadly neutralising antibodies”, capable of binding to multiple strains of HIV.
A study published in Science this September combined three of these broadly neutralising antibodies to produce a powerful tri-specific antibody, capable of interaction with three independent HIV-1 envelope determinants: the CD4 binding site, the membrane proximal external region (MPER) and the V1V2 glycan site.
This antibody demonstrated higher potency than any of the individual broadly neutralising antibodies alone, and was used successfully for a study in rhesus monkeys; following administration of the tri-specific antibody, and subsequent exposure to a mixture of HIV strains, none of the tri-specific antibody recipients developed an infection. Clinical trials in man are expected to begin in 2018.
Antibodies against Dengue virus confer protection against Zika
Zika fever is an infectious disease which is primarily spread by the bite of mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus. Its symptoms include fever, a rash, muscle and joint pain, headache, and red eyes, while infection during pregnancy can result in severe birth defects including microcephaly. Zika made headline news during 2015 when a widespread epidemic broke out, with several key athletes pulling out of the 2016 Rio Olympics and Paralympics amid safety concerns.
In September 2017 a study was published in Nature, demonstrating that antibodies against the Dengue virus were also effective against Zika. Human monoclonal antibodies specific to the Dengue virus E-dimer epitope (DENV EDE) were used to treat adult mice which had been infected with Zika; while the majority of control animals died as a result of Zika infection, those which received the monoclonal antibodies soon after Zika infection survived.
The same antibodies were then administered to mice which had been infected with Zika during pregnancy; those mice which were given the antibodies shortly after Zika infection had significantly lower levels of viral RNA in the heads of their foetuses than those mice which received the placebo. Although clinical trials in man are not yet planned, it is hoped that such antibodies could eventually be administered to women living in high-risk areas as protection from Zika during pregnancy.
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