A small trial involving 18 HIV positive patients has displayed unusual results in one of the participants. An antibody treatment has caused low levels of HIV in one man 10 months after treatment.
The trial led by the US Military HIV Research Program (MHRP), was conducted in Thailand with patients already taking the standard medication for HIV.
During the trial, half received no treatment whilst the others had an infusion of the antibody, VRC01 injected into their bloodstream. Within an average of 14 days, those receiving no treatment saw their HIV return, forcing them to be put back on their regular medication. The half with the treatment took 26 days instead.
These results are not particularly notable, although one participant did stand out, controlling the virus for 10 months after the treatment ended. He received the antibody infusion every three weeks for six months.
Dr Jintanat Ananworanich, one of the MHRP scientists, said “It suggests there’s some impact from the antibody, but how the antibody actually impacts the virus and the immune system – that’s an ongoing investigation.
“I do think antibody therapy has potential because the antibody, in the future, could perhaps be given just two or three times a year.”
Antibody treatment has far greater potential than the antiretroviral drugs that are currently being prescribed to HIV patients. The immune system can be trained by the antibodies which are introduced to the body, causing a lasting effect at keeping HIV at bay. Treatment can become less regular with better benefits.
In a monkey study, antibodies were used to treat HIV infection. The immune system was seen to act on the HIV after treatment.
Dr Ananworanich told the BBC: “That perhaps stimulates the other arms of the immune system, like the T-cells, to better react to HIV – and in that monkey study the monkeys went into remission.”
Further research needs to be conducted to see exactly how antibodies directly impact the immune system and the HIV virus.
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