Efforts to make a prophylactic HIV vaccine have identified monoclonal antibodies that potently suppress viral replication. Studies in monkeys show that these reagents effectively treat HIV infection.
A major breakthrough from the HIV-vaccine research community in recent years was the isolation and characterization of novel antibodies from HIV-infected people that have the remarkable ability to efficiently neutralize most circulating HIV strains1, 2. The antibodies' mechanism of action involves the recognition and blockade of evolutionarily conserved, functionally crucial structures of the HIV viral envelope. These unusual antibodies have reinvigorated the effort to develop an antibody-based prophylactic HIV vaccine by defining effective human antibody responses to the virus and providing a 'map' for reverse engineering of vaccines that recapitulate these responses. Because these antibodies develop infrequently, emerge only after many years of HIV infection and are characterized by a high degree of mutation1, 2, this task is not likely to be quickly accomplished. But that does not necessarily mean that the clinical benefit of these antibodies is relegated to the distant future. On the contrary, two reports published on Nature's website today, by Barouch et al.3 and Shingai et al.4, demonstrate that combinations of such antibodies drastically reduce virus levels in chronically infected rhesus macaques, bolstering the hope that such therapies might be effective in humans.
Via Torben Barsballe