New findings bring scientists closer to new evidence about broadly reactive neutralizing antibodies, which block HIV infection.
Leo Stamatatos of the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute said the major stumbling block in the development of an effective vaccine against HIV is the inability to elicit, by immunization, broadly reactive neutralizing antibodies (NAbs).
These antibodies bind to the surface of HIV and prevent it from attaching itself to a cell and infecting it. However, a fraction of people infected with HIV develop broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) capable of preventing cell-infection by diverse HIV isolates, which are the type of antibodies researchers wish to elicit by vaccination.
"We've found that the people who develop broadly-reactive neutralizing antibodies-which are about 30 percent of those infected-tend to have a healthier immune system that differs from others who don't develop those antibodies," explained Stamatatos.
He said these antibodies target only a few regions of HIV, which is good from the standpoint of vaccine development.
In addition, the new findings have shown that these antibodies are generated much sooner than previously thought, in some cases as soon as a year after infection.
"These studies provide a strong rationale to begin teasing out the early immunological signals that allow some individuals, but not others, to mount broadly reactive neutralizing antibody responses," added co-author Galit Alter.
The findings were published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.