A new way of eliminating cells latently infected with HIV, where the virus is dormant and invisible to the immune system and antiviral drugs, is described this week in Nature Communications. The specifically designed antibody may one day help reduce the number of HIV-containing cells in patients infected with the virus.
John Mascola, Gary Nabel and colleagues developed an antibody that activates latently HIV-infected cells and, at the same time, redirects killer T-cells to destroy them. The antibody is capable of inducing the production of HIV proteins by HIV-infected cells isolated from patients, making them visible and therefore more easily targeted by immune cells. The treatment was also well-tolerated in non-human primates, showing that it has the potential to be introduced to clinical trials.
Curing HIV infection remains a challenge because the virus can become dormant and persist in latently infected cells. Purging HIV from these reservoirs is an important step towards completely eliminating the virus from the body. The antibody developed in this study may bring us one step closer to this goal, but its effectiveness in pre-clinical animal models and in humans remains to be evaluated.