For over three decades, the world has been searching for a way to eradicate HIV completely. The virus progressively works against the immune system of an infected person. HIV is also fast in mutating and uses spike protein to enter host cells. For this reason, researchers have found it hard to create a promising HIV vaccine.
According to a recent report, all that would soon be history if the words of William Schief, Ph.D., of Scripps Research Institute La Jolla, CA, come true. According to the professor and immunologist, HIV is not one virus, but about 50 million different viruses globally.
He noted that on rare occasions, people with HIV make antibodies (bnAbs) naturally. The natural production has allowed scientists to find where the antibodies bind to the virus.
The preceding allows scientists to develop immunogens used in vaccines. However, only a rare type of immature immune cell known as naive B cell can develop into circulating B cells, capable of making bnAbs against HIV.
Professor Schief said only one in a million naive B cells has the potential. For this reason, he and his Scripps colleagues are using germline targeting to create a promising HIV vaccine that would activate the B cells. So far, the vaccine appears safe and has produced the desired result in volunteers.
The professor added that the vaccine is the first in a series of injections to create immunity against the virus. The first would wake the naive B cells, and the subsequent ones would train their descendants to produce bnAbs against HIV.
Professor Schief said that he and his colleagues believe the germline targeting approach is key in making an HIV vaccine and possibly against other pathogens. In the meantime, PrEP drugs like Truvada continue to work in preventing HIV infection.
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