Scientists have developed a new antibody that can kill 99% of HIV strains and even prevent infections in primates.
It works by attacking three different parts of the virus, making it difficult for HIV to resist its effects.
The antibody, which has been engineered by scientists at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in conjunction with pharmaceutical firm Sanofi, has been hailed as an “exciting breakthrough” by the International Aids Society.
The human body struggles to fight HIV because of the virus’s incredible ability to mutate and change. As a result, the immune system finds itself combatting multiple strains all at once – a task that is insurmountable.
Human trials will now commence in 2018 to see whether the antibody can prevent and treat infections.
Dr Gary Nabel, the chief scientific officer at Sanofi and one of the report authors, said the new antibody is “more potent” and has “greater breadth than any single naturally occurring antibody that's been discovered”.
Until now, the best naturally occurring antibodies target 90% of HIV strains. At 99%, the new antibody is significantly more powerful.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Science.