Ahead of World Aids Day on 1 December, the team from California Institute of Technology published findings of a study of a technique known as vectored immuno-prophylaxis (VIP). This involves using a vector to encode the antibody genes that direct the expression of HIV-neutralising antibodies.
The Californian team showed that mice receiving a single infection seemed to be protected from HIV infection, even when challenged with a high dose of HIV. They believe use of this approach in humans ‘may produce effective prophylaxis against HIV’.
Writing online in Nature, the researchers said: ‘Given the level of protection that VIP has demonstrated in vivo, we believe that highly effective prophylaxis through expression of existing monoclonal antibodies against HIV in humans is achievable.’
Commenting on the findings, Professor Robin Shattock, professor of mucosal infection and immunity at Imperial College in London, said the findings were promising, but ‘much work will be needed to ensure safety, acceptability and efficacy of such an approach for human use’.
‘Nevertheless this study reinforces the potential of neutralising antibodies to prevent HIV infection and complements the drive to develop vaccine approaches designed to induce protective antibodies in at risk individuals,’ he said.