HIV Vaccine
A 39-year-old Burmese migrant living with HIV shows her antiretroviral drugs to a journalist during an interview at the migrant health office of the NGO Raks Thai Foundation in the seafood industry town of Mahachai, Samut Sakhon province, February 6, 2015. Hospitals across the country are denying insurance and care to migrant labourers with AIDS-related illnesses despite an insurance scheme launched over a year ago, officials and rights advocates say. After four years of paying about 3,000 baht ($92) a month for her medicine and care, she was finally able to purchase health insurance in September 2013. The hospital where she purchased her health insurance still regularly refuses care to migrants with HIV. Picture taken February 6, 2015. To match Feature THAILAND-AIDS/MIGRANTS REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

A team of scientists, including several immunologists from different institutions such as the Harvard Medical School and Florida's Scripps Research Institute, has developed a promising drug that has the capability to block all known strains of HIV in rhesus macaques. Since these species of monkeys carry the HIV strain similar to the one that infects human, it is speculated that the breakthrough discovery of the new HIV vaccine will possibly help treat humans too.

During the experiment, scientists used gene therapy technique to inject the protein drug eCD4-lg into a normal muscle cell DNA of the monkeys. The injected piece of DNA continuosly produces and releases chemicals in the bloodstream that balances out HIV. The genetically altered monkeys were then repeatedly exposed to high levels of the virus for over a period of eight months, however, not even a single macaque caught the virus. Further lab test results showed that the chemical is capable of blocking all known strains of HIV-1 and HIV-2 that primarily infects humans.

Rapid mutation in the HIV has always posed challenges on the researchers that work on development of vaccines against the virus. However, the newly discovered virus seems promising since it is believed to be more potent than the rest of the vaccines available in the market, and hence can be used to treat humans specifically.

"Our compound is the broadest and most potent entry inhibitor described so far," said Michael Farzan, leading immunologist from the research team.

"Unlike antibodies, which fail to neutralize a large fraction of HIV-1 strains, our protein has been effective against all strains tested, raising the possibility it could offer an effective HIV vaccine alternative," continued Farzan.

The research details and results have been published in Nature.

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