In what would be described as a remarkable breakthrough, Scientists from National Institutes of Health (NIH), Maryland, U.S., have identified an antibody called ‘N6’ which can be used in preventing and treating the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the virus that leads to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
The scientists from NIH – the largest biomedical research agency in the world – scrutinized the evolution of N6 over time to understand how exactly it managed to develop the ability to potently neutralize the majority of HIV strains.
The research, which was led by Mark Connors, M.D of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), was able to discover the powerful antibody that is highly effective in both binding to the surface of the HIV virus and neutralizing it.
The antibody was initially discovered in an HIV-positive person and has since proven to potentially neutralize 98 percent of HIV isolates, “including 16 of 20 strains resistant to other antibodies of the same class,” according to the press release.
Researchers have had previous success with other antibodies, but N6 appears to be more effective.
For instance, in 2010, an antibody called VRC01 was discovered by scientists at NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC). VRC01 blocks approximately 90 percent of HIV strains from infecting human cells.
The breakthrough is coming at a time when over 36.7 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, as at the end of 2015, according to UNAIDS