May 21, 2019

HIV breakthrough brings vaccine a step closer

Sorry couldn't help myself. The old buildings at Melbourne University are fantastic. Almost as fantastic as the research carried out there.

The search for a vaccine for the HIV virus is a step closer thanks to work carried out at Australia’s Melbourne University, where reseachers have identified antibodies that fight the HIV virus.

In a study conducted with 100 volunteer HIV sufferers from The Alfred Hospital and the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre , the antibodies were so successful in suppressing the virus that it had to mutate around them. The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The discovery has raised hope that the antibodies, if introduced to healthy people, could prevent the virus taking hold in the first place.

Professor Stephen Kent, of Melbourne University’s department of microbiology and immunology, said developing a vaccine was ”the holy grail” of research into HIV, which has infected over 30 million people worldwide.

”In Australia we treat people with drugs that restore the immune system, but unfortunately that’s not an option in many parts of the world [due to cost] so it’s important that we prevent this infection,” Professor Kent said.

”We’ve been working on this problem for over 10 years and the vaccines we’ve tried in the past have induced some immune responses but they have not been very effective.

”We think we know why now; we think we were inducing the wrong immune responses. If we can use this knowledge to induce the right immune responses, we hope to really knock this on the head.”

Professor Kent said his team studied blood samples of HIV-positive people and analysed how the antibodies (called antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity) targeted the virus.

”We were very surprised to see the virus was mutating around these antibodies,” he said. ”As a result, the antibody isn’t entirely successful in getting rid of the virus in people with HIV.

”But if you were to have those antibodies before you caught the virus and it started replicating – giving the immune system a head start – we think it would prevent the virus taking hold at all.”

Newswarped is excited to see ground breaking research for an HIV vaccine is being carried out in Australia. Well done to professor Kent and the other members of the research team.

You can get more information reading about In Vitro Immuno-Oncology Assays.