A group of Swiss scientists has made progress in the study of antibodies produced by some people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that can neutralize it, according to a report issued in the journal Nature.
A team of researchers from the University of Zurich (UZH) and the University Hospital of Zurich (USZ) has explored the reasons why some people with HIV-1 (the most prevalent form of the virus) develop specific antibodies that neutralize the HIV.
The identification of these factors would potentially prompt the development of a vaccine for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, according to the researchers. Those specific antibodies manufactured by the bodies of a limited group of patients with HIV not only counteract the most common strain of the virus but can “also neutralize almost all known strains,” they explain.
Several studies have established that among the factors that have an influence on the production of these antibodies as an immune response in case of HIV infection are the amount and type of virus, the length of the disease and the ethnicity of the patient.
The HIV itself can determine whether the immune system produces antibodies against the virus or not
Huldrych Gunthard, assistant director at the Department of Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiology at USZ, points out that another factor has now been identified – the genome of the HIV.
The researchers reviewed data and documented blood samples from 4,500 HIV-infected individuals, and came up with 303 possible “transmission pairs.”
“By comparing the immune response of these pairs of patients, we were able to demonstrate that the HIV itself influences the extent and specificity of antibody reactions,” says Roger Kouyos, one of the study’s authors.
More specifically, the investigators concluded that antibodies bind to proteins on the body of the virus, which differ according to the strain and the subtype of the HIV in question.
However, to develop a working vaccine against HIV-1, the most prevalent HIV strain, further investigations are required to identify “the proteins and strains of the virus that lead to the formation of antibodies.”