Researchers team from Rockefellar University, that include Dr. Marina Caskey found that among 11 HIV patients given an antibody combo, nine maintained complete suppression of the virus for five months after going off their medication regimen. According to experts the therapy could one day free some patients from taking daily pills to control the AIDS-causing virus. The drug “cocktails” used to treat HIV, called antiretroviral therapy (ART), have changed the face of the epidemic in countries where they are widely available, and they allow people to have long and healthy lives for the most part but however, the drugs do not banish HIV, and if a patient stops taking the drugs, the virus comes roaring back. Yet again, these medications carry side effects that include increased risks of heart, liver and kidney disease, diabetes and bone density loss. So, across the globe researchers are trying to develop therapies that can send HIV into remission for prolonged periods. With antibody therapy, the vision is to give patients an infusion every three to six months which will help in avoiding daily pills that have severe side effects.
The current research mainly focuses on “broadly neutralizing antibodies” (bNAbs), and they neutralize multiple strains of HIV. Previously studies have tested single bNAbs and found the tactic doesn’t work for long and hence this study has utilized combination of antibodies. “When you give one, the virus can escape and modify itself to become resistant to the antibody” explains Dr. Caskey. Two-pronged antibody attack is more effective, like drug combinations work against the virus. As for side effects of the antibody therapy, patients can experience mild fatigue, but nothing more serious. Dr. Caskey pointed out an important question for future studies, “Can antibody therapies, over time, spur the immune system to produce its own HIV-fighting antibodies, possibly reducing the need for treatment?”. The new frontiers in HIV research involve looking at longer-acting treatments that can have long-term viral suppression with as little drug as possible.
– Arpitha Shetty,