Early antibody treatment provides long-lasting protection against HIV-like virus

There have been a series of HIV medications, such as nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors, non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, protease inhibitors, fusion inhibitors, and integrase inhibitors. These drugs can reduce viral load and control infections, but cannot cure HIV infection. Once a patient stops taking medications, the virus can come roaring back, attacking the immune system.

A team consisting of researchers from the National Institutes of Health, the University of Cologne, The Rockefeller University, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research now shows that early antibody therapy enables the immune system to control the virus for a long period of time. The findings, which are published in the journal Nature, suggest that this type of therapy can induce potent immunity to HIV.

Broadly neutralizing anti-HIV-1 antibodies (bNAbs) are antibodies that can neutralize multiple HIV-1 viral strains, and they are used to develop vaccines and treatments for HIV and other lentiviruses. However, administration of bNAbs to chronically infected animals inhibits virus replication only for a short period of time. The virus finally returns to pre-treatment levels and causes disease.

To develop more effective antibody therapy for HIV, the researchers conducted experiments in a macaque simian/human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) model. They found that two bNAbs 3BNC117 and 10-1074, when given in combination, can induce long-lasting immunity to SHIV.

A total of 13 monkeys were exposed to the SHIV virus and then were treated with the antibody combination. The researchers found that the antibody combination suppressed the virus to levels near or below the limit of detection, and this effect lasted for nearly six months. When the antibodies were eliminated from the monkey's bodies, the virus rebounded in most of the animals.

However, 5 to 22 months later, plasma virus loads declined to undetectable levels in 6 of the monkeys and remained suppressed for another 5 to 13 months. Moreover, 4 additional monkeys maintained extremely low viral loads and normal counts of CD4+ T cells for more than 2 years. Taken together, 10 of the 13 treated monkeys benefitted from the antibody combination. The researchers believed that passive immunotherapy during acute SHIV infection can induce potent T-cell immunity that durably suppresses virus replication.
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