‘Piranha bite’ antibody action discovered in HIV patients

PEOPLE resistant to HIV have antibodies that act together like a shoal of piranhas, each taking a small “bite” to knock the virus down, new research has shown.

The discovery could mark a turning point in the development of vaccines against the Aids virus, which have so far proved ineffective.

Jon Von Radowitz for the Scotsman

Antibodies are key weapons in the immune system arsenal. Released by white blood cells, they target specific invaADVERTISEMENTders such as bacteria or viruses to neutralise or destroy them.

The researchers studied individuals who seem to have a natural immunity to HIV. In 10 per cent to 20 per cent of HIV patients, progress to developing Aids is very slow. White blood cells in their immune system produce high numbers of anti-HIV antibodies, but how they operate has not been clear.

Scientists at Rockefeller University in New York led the new research, which involved isolating 433 antibodies from resistant HIV patients. The results were published in the online version of the journal Nature.

The scientists discovered each of the antibodies on its own had only a weak effect on the virus, but together they packed a powerful punch.

The antibodies were also able to recognise a wide range of HIV strains, potentially making it more difficult for the virus to mutate out of harm’s way.


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