Scientists 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.