WHAT: Most vaccines that protect against viruses generate infection-fighting proteins called antibodies that either block infection or help eliminate the virus before it can cause disease. Attempts to create a vaccine that induces antibodies that prevent HIV infection or disease, however, have so far been unsuccessful. But several recent studies suggest promising new research directions for the development of an antibody-based HIV vaccine, according to John R. Mascola, M.D., deputy director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, and colleagues.
These studies demonstrate that, contrary to widespread belief, it is not uncommon for people infected with HIV to naturally make antibodies that can neutralize a variety of HIV strains. These antibodies do not protect people from the virus because they arise years after HIV infection is established. However, if a vaccine could prime the body to make these broadly neutralizing antibodies before exposure to HIV, they could potentially prevent infection or hold the virus at bay until an army of immune cells assembles to limit viral replication.
Based on these findings, Dr. Mascola and colleagues recommend a research strategy that uses naturally occurring, broadly neutralizing anti-HIV antibodies for the ultimate design of an antibody-based HIV vaccine.
Key aspects of this strategy include
ARTICLE: L Stamatatos et al. Neutralizing antibodies generated during natural HIV-1 infection: good news for an HIV-1 vaccine? Nature Medicine DOI 10.1038/nm.1949 (2009).
WHO: John R. Mascola, M.D., deputy director of NIAID's Vaccine Research Center, is available for comment.
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