HIV-infected infants can develop broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNABs) against the virus within the first year of life. These finding reported online this week in Nature Medicine could help inform vaccine efforts that aim to induce bNAbs.
HIV-1 infects more than 35 million people worldwide and there is still no approved vaccine to prevent infection. The bNAbs that develop in some HIV-infected individuals have raised hope that such antibodies might be used for treatment or could be induced by a vaccine. However, because these antibodies are associated with extensive somatic hypermutation-a key step in the maturation process of antibodies-their induction by a vaccine may prove to be difficult.
Julie Overbaugh and her colleagues show that antibody-producing immune cells, called B cells, from HIV-infected infants are capable of making bNAbs at a similar frequency to adults. Understanding the mechanisms by which these antibodies arise rapidly in infants may shed light on how to successfully induce them through vaccination.