New York: The researchers from California Institute of Technology have discovered a new antibody that can make it easier to detect and neutralise HIV virus in an infected patient.
Proteins called broadly neutralising antibodies (bNAbs) are a promising key to prevent infection by HIV — the virus that causes AIDS.
The process of HIV infection begins when the virus comes in contact with human immune cells called T cells that carry a particular protein called CD4 on their surface. Broadly neutralising antibodies have been found in blood samples from some HIV patients whose immune systems can naturally control the infection.
The newly-discovered antibodies may protect a patient’s healthy cells by recognising this protein present on the surface of all HIV strains and inhibiting, or neutralising, the effects of the virus.
“It is actually an advantage if the antibody can recognise different forms,” said Louise Scharf, a postdoctoral scholar.
A potential medical application of this antibody is in combination therapies in which a patient is given a cocktail of several antibodies that work in different ways to fight off the virus as it rapidly changes and evolves.
The UNAIDS in its latest report issued on Tuesday said that globally, around 1.7 million people became newly infected with HIV in 2018, a 16 per cent decline since 2010, driven mostly by steady progress across most of eastern and southern Africa.
UNAIDS’ Global AIDS Update showed that South Africa, for example, has made huge advances and has successfully reduced new HIV infections by more than 40 per cent and AIDS-related deaths by around 40 per cent since 2010.
The report also revealed that AIDS-related deaths continued to decline as access to treatment continues to expand and more progress is made in improving the delivery of HIV/tuberculosis services.
Since 2010, AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 33%, to 770 000 in 2018.
However, there was still a long way to go in eastern and southern Africa, the region most affected by HIV, and there have been worrying increases in new infections in eastern Europe and central Asia (29 per cent), in the Middle East and North Africa (10 per cent) and in Latin America (7 per cent).
The report also said that key populations and their sexual partners now account for more than half (54 per cent) of new HIV infections globally.
In 2018, key populations, including people who inject drugs, gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and prisoners, accounted for around 95 per cent of new HIV infections in eastern Europe and central Asia and in the Middle East and North Africa.
However, the report showed that less than 50 per cent of key populations were reached with combination HIV prevention services in more than half of the countries that reported.
This highlighted that key populations were still being marginalized and being left behind in the response to HIV.
“We urgently need increased political leadership to end AIDS,” the report quoted Gunilla Carlsson, UNAIDS Executive Director, as saying,
“This starts with investing adequately and smartly and by looking at what’s making some countries so successful. Ending AIDS is possible if we focus on people, not diseases, create road maps for the people and locations being left behind, and take a human rights-based approach to reach people most affected by HIV.” (IANS)