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Scientists discover potent antibody that neutralizes nearly all HIV strains

Scientists have found an antibody which destroys all HIV strains and could serve as a springboard to develop drugs which could help treat or prevent the scourge of 21st century- AIDS.

The latest antibody has been isolated from an HIV-infected person, and it was found to neutralize 98% of HIV strains tested, which included 16 of the isolates which were resistant to other antibodies of the same class. The antibody has been classified as N6, and it is a possible candidate for developing drugs which will treat or prevent HIV infections. The research effort is led by Mark Connors from National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US. It envisaged tracking the evolution of the N6 over time and how it developed the ability to destroy all HIV strains. It could pave the way for designing vaccines which will help produce such antibodies which are lethal to a wide range of AIDS virus strains.

It was a tricky job to identify the particular antibody because the AIDS virus frequently changed it surface proteins making it difficult for the immune system to identify it. In 2010 the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC) unearthed an antibody VRCO1 which was lethal to 90% of the HIV strains which infected the human cell.

The VRCO1 acted by attaching itself to a part of the HIV outer shell known as CD4 binding site and prevented the virus from attaching itself to immune cells. The N6 also acts in a similar fashion. Further, it was revealed that the N6 had evolved a mode of binding to a region of the AIDS virus which seldom changed. Thus the N6 can survive any changes made by the virus shell, a mode by which it developed resistance to the other VRC01-class antibodies.