Newly discovered antibody group could be the future of HIV vaccines
Researchers at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute report that a newly identified group of antibodies that binds to a coating of sugars on the outer shell of HIV is effective in neutralising the virus and points to a novel vaccine approach that could also potentially be used against SARS-CoV-2 and fungal pathogens.
The study, which appeared online in the journal Cell, describes an immune cell common between both humans and primates that produces a “unique type of anti-glycan antibody”. This antibody can attached to the outer layer of HIV, which is coated in “chain-like structures of sugar”. More than 50% of the HIV virus’s outer layer is comprised of these glycan sugars.
"This represents a new form of host defence," said senior author Barton Haynes, M.D., director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI). "These new antibodies have a special shape and could be effective against a variety of pathogens. It's very exciting."
"The structural and functional characteristics of these antibodies can be used to design vaccines that target this glycan patch on HIV, eliciting a B-cell response that neutralises the virus," Williams said.
"These antibodies are actually much more common in blood cells than other neutralising antibodies that target specific regions of the HIV outer layer," Williams said. "That's an exciting finding, because it overcomes one of the biggest complexities associated with other types of broadly neutralising antibodies."
Whilst the research is encouraging and may lead to whole new avenues of vaccine research it’s important to know that HIV vaccines are a long way off being available to the public. In the mean time please continue to use the most appropriate HIV prevention and treatment methods available to you.