AIDS/HIV | Science

New Vulnerability Found In HIV Virus

HIV five sites of vulnerabilityScientists at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) working with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) have found a fifth weak point in the HIV virus that can be targeted and attacked by human antibodies.

A new class of antibodies that neutralize a broad range of HIV strains provided a critical tool. The surface protein bearing the vulnerable site is typically unstable and difficult to study. Unlike previously discovered "broadly neutralizing" antibodies, these actually stabilize the protein in its fully assembled, infectious state. This makes it much easier to study the HIV surface protein. Moreover, other such vulnerable sites are likely to exist, the researchers said, and knowledge of what to look for should help. The site is the first discovered since 2009, said Andrew Ward, one of the TSRI researchers.

A possible vaccine would still be years away, but these new findings could also help design neutralizing antibody cocktails that hold the virus in check. Said one of the TSRI researchers Andrew Ward,

This is another tool, another option. The more options we have, the better we'll be.

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  1. Considering talk of a vaccine started in the 80's, I think they mean "decades away".

    Posted by: anon | Apr 26, 2014 5:37:43 PM

  2. @anon: don't discount the technical progress we've made since the 80s. Here's just one example: the cost of gene sequencing: and

    Posted by: Bill | Apr 26, 2014 9:16:02 PM

  3. I would love to see a friend of mine be cured of this - that would be beautiful.

    Posted by: steve | Apr 27, 2014 2:28:09 AM

  4. The human immunodeficiency virus virus ?

    Considering the massive amount of money that's been spent on HIV research over the decades, the tens of thousands of people involved, and the millions of pages of journal articles generated...

    Well, let's just say I'm a skeptic, and that I find it simply incredible that the steady stream of hopeful articles just like this one over the decades is still sufficient enough to keep most people pacified and gullible.

    Posted by: Buckie | Apr 27, 2014 5:09:32 AM


    I believe I remember hearing that this has progressed into human trials now.

    Posted by: Brian | Apr 27, 2014 10:30:05 AM

  6. It is nowhere close to human trials, and there are LOTS of hurdles before it might be.

    We don’t have a clue as to whether some virus in the body are commensal and hence beneficial to us, but what we have learned about bacteria and antibiotics suggests we should be very careful before we start dosing people with broad spectrum drugs that wipe out entire classes of organisms.

    Posted by: Bob Roehr | Apr 27, 2014 12:07:07 PM

  7. @Bob Roehr : the article claims that they found a spot that antibodies can bind to for a wide variety of HIV strains, not for viruses in general.

    Also, the claim is that when an antibody binds to this site, it keeps HIV's surface protein in a stable configuration, making it much easier to study. That alone is significant as it will help other researchers complete their work faster than otherwise.

    Posted by: Bill | Apr 27, 2014 2:09:57 PM

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