HIV breakthrough

2014-03-04 00:00

THE discovery of how a KwaZulu-Natal woman’s body responded to her HIV infection by producing potent anti-bodies brings researchers “one step closer” to a vaccine, according to Professor Salim S. Abdool Karim, director of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa), based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson R. Mandela Medical School in Durban.

This underpins the findings published yesterday in the scientific journal Nature, which describe how the Caprisa consortium of Aids researchers, working jointly with scientists from the U.S., identified the antibodies in the woman’s blood and then duplicated them by cloning the anti­bodies in the laboratory. The cloned antibodies were then used in a series of experiments to find the pathway followed by her immune system in making these potent antibodies.

The antibodies produced by the woman, referred to as Caprisa 256, are called “broadly neutralising antibodies”, said Abdool Karim, because they are capable of killing multiple strains of HIV from across the world.

Other antibodies are unable to target the HI-virus because they are unable to penetrate the coating of sugars shielding the virus, according to Abdool Karim. “We found that this woman’s antibodies have what you could call ‘long arms’ that can reach through the sugar shield and reach the virus itself.”

The discovery of these “broadly neutralising antibodies” overcomes another obstacle in the search for an HIV vaccine. “We are one step closer,” said Abdool Karim, but he cautioned that “there are still many hurdles on the road from where we are to where can make a vaccine.” Abdool Karim said the next step would be to see if it was possible to stimulate the body’s production of these antibodies, which could then lead to a vaccine.

“The new insights gained from this KwaZulu-Natal woman into immune responses against HIV bring hope for future HIV prevention and treatment strategies,” he said.

The South African researchers in the Caprisa consortium, which includes scientists from the UKZN, Wits University, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg, and the University of Cape Town, worked jointly with U.S. partners based at the Vaccine Research Centre of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, and Columbia University in New York, to conduct this research.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said that considering SA has the largest burden of HIV infection globally, he was “gratified to see South African scientists, under Professor Abdool Karim’s leadership, undertake this research to find solutions that will bring an end to Aids”.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.