Last week we covered news that brought hope to the fight against HIV, that a new vaginal gel could protect women against HIV infection even hours after sexual intercourse. This week new study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases presents a special patient with an even more special immune system, one that produces antibodies that are essential to the creation of an effective HIV vaccine. Basically, their immune system provides HIV vaccine hope and we’re here to tell you what we know about the study and its special patient.
The patient in cause has a very rare combination of SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus – an illness where the body’s cells and tissue are attacked by its own immune system) and HIV. Over the years, the scientists haven’t found another patient with these two illnesses combined, in order to determine if they’re making the broad neutralizing antibodies.
But this particular patient was indeed making these antibodies and the researchers only had to observe and understand how the immune system was doing what it was doing. Such broadly neutralizing antibodies are effective against many viruses and strains of pathogen by protecting the cells from infection and neutralizing the biological effects of the attackers.
HIV Vaccine Hope
This patient seems to hold the key for developing a successful HIV vaccine, because up until now the only problem that sat in the way of an effective HIV vaccine was getting the immune system to produce those broadly neutralizing antibodies.
There are some people, very few, who start producing these antibodies after becoming infected with HIV, but in some cases, it may take the body two years before it starts making them.
Those involved in the study consider this particular patient a an immense repository of important information that will help them come up with experimental HIV vaccines that works by overpowering the immune system’s control of broad neutralizing antibodies.
The scientists in no way suggest that people sick with lupus are immune to HIV. In case that thought crossed your mind.