A group of scientists has conducted a study in which they discovered that HIV patients who started antiretroviral medication (ART) early in their infection had a long duration of HIV suppression without ART after getting two broadly neutralising anti-HIV antibodies (bNAbs). The findings of the research were published in the journal ‘Nature’.
According to the study, the combination bNAb therapy might offer a potential alternative to daily ART for people living with HIV. The study was conducted by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID); the Maple Leaf Medical Clinic in Toronto; the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research; Harvard Medical School, Boston; and The Rockefeller University, New York City.
The scientists reveal that although oral antiretrovirals are highly effective at keeping HIV levels under control, it can be difficult for some people with HIV to adhere to a daily medication regimen. Moreover, the medicines can present long-term side effects from lifetime usage and create the possibility for the development of drug-resistant viruses.
The researchers conducted a two-component clinical trial between September 2018 and January 2021, as reported by news agency ANI. The first component was a Phase 1 randomized, placebo-controlled trial involving 14 participants with HIV. These individuals had started ART during the early phase of their infection.
The second component of the study involved bNAb infusions in a group of 5 study participants who were not taking ART but still maintained low levels of HIV. In this smaller group, only two of the five study participants maintained complete suppression of the virus for an average of 41.7 weeks following the bNAb transfusions.
The researchers found that the bNAb combination was ineffective in suppressing HIV if participants harboured virus resistance to either or both experimental antibodies before receiving the infusions. The presence of pre-existing antibody-resistant HIV poses a major challenge going forward, according to the authors. No safety issues occurred in the study, and the infusions were well-tolerated.
The scientists suggested that the combination bNAb therapy can be highly effective in suppressing HIV in the absence of ART for extended periods, provided that the antibody-resistant virus is not present at the time individuals begin antibody treatment.
The team of researchers also claimed that larger studies are needed to confirm the findings, but as next-generation bNAbs with increased potency and durability become available.
(With inputs from ANI)