Newly discovered monoclonal antibodies could control HIV

A recently discovered group of monoclonal antibodies could serve as a new tool to control HIV, according to a study published on Wednesday in Nature.

A team of scientists from the La Jolla, Calif.-based The Scripps Research Institute and other institutions found that the antibodies can stay active for several weeks in rhesus monkeys affected by an HIV-like virus. The presence of the antibodies limited the simian-human immunodeficiency virus to low levels.

"The antibodies brought down the virus very quickly and dramatically and it stayed there, in most cases, until the antibodies went away," Dennis Burton, the director of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative Neutralizing Antibody Center at TSRI, said. "In some cases, the virus stayed undetectable. It's surprising and encouraging that antibodies can be so effective against established infection."

The researchers determined that PGT121, an antibody previously found to broadly neutralize HIV, was able to suppress SHIV with or without other antibodies. The results may present possibilities to use antibodies like PGT121 with antiretroviral drugs. The combined treatment could contribute to HIV cure strategies.

"We hope we learn the right lessons from this so we can do the right kind of clinical trials in humans," Burton said. "That will be the next big step, probably in one or two years."