Secret For Life-Saving HIV Cure Could Be Llamas

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Children display ribbon cut-outs tied to balloons during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to mark World AIDS Day in Kolkata December 1, 2014. The world has finally reached "the beginning of the end" of the AIDS pandemic that has infected and kille
Children display ribbon cut-outs tied to balloons during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to mark World AIDS Day in Kolkata December 1, 2014. The world has finally reached "the beginning of the end" of the AIDS pandemic that has infected and killed millions in the past 30 years, according to a leading campaign group fighting HIV. United Nations data show that in 2013, 35 million people were living with HIV, 2.1 million people were newly infected with the virus and some 1.5 million people died of AIDS. By far the greatest part of the HIV/AIDS burden is in sub-Saharan Africa. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

Scientists have made a discovery that can point towards developing an effective vaccine for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, a condition in humans which results in the failure of the immune system. It was found that the immune system antibodies from llamas, a domesticated South American animal, has the ability to fight HIV.

According to Yahoo News UK, the secret weapon against HIV for the llamas was an antibody that was smaller than those ones that were being produced in the bloodstreams of humans and other mammals. It was found that when llamas were vaccinated with an HIV genetic material, it produced antibodies, unusual in nature, that neutralised a range of different strains of the virus. 

The scientists found that the llamas generated four-chain as well as two-chain antibodies. The small ones helped in binding itself to the HIV viral particles, which in turn, prevented the particles to invade the white blood cells. 

The researchers conducted an experimented to see if the antibodies from the llamas could block HIV from infecting the cells of humans. It was found that the antibodies targeted the same site in the human cells and didn't compete with each other, cancelling out the positive effects. It was reported that this issue was a common one for HIV researchers. 

Dr Laura McCoy, the lead author of the study from Scripps Research Institute in California, told Healthline, that the strongest neutralising body always wins. While taking into consideration different strains of HIV, a few antibodies seemed to work better than others. Also the research by McCoy's team found that the antibodies could neutralise a total of 60 different strains of HIV when it was used together. 

In the journal, Public Library of Science PathogensMcCoy wrote that the antibody occurred in low frequency in the llamas and did not result in broadly neutralising sera which was the goal for a protective vaccine against HIV. She also wrote that the model allowed her team to examine HIV antibodies that were induced by vaccination was not seen in other animal models and that it highlighted the various challenges of evaluating studies related to immunisation with deep sequencing of the antibody variable regions. 

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