From the Wall Street Journal, excerpt:
An international team of researchers has discovered a pair of powerful new antibodies to HIV, providing fresh leads in the quest for a vaccine against AIDS.
The two HIV antibodies, reported in a study to appear in the journal Science on Friday, are the first of their kind to have been identified in more than a decade. They are “broadly neutralizing,” which means they can target most of the many thousands of HIV strains.
Any potential vaccine is still a long way off, however. Researchers now have to work out how these antibodies bind to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and use that property as the basis for a vaccine. As a result, animal or human trials are likely to be years away.
Nonetheless, the new antibodies are deemed to be much more powerful than the handful of similar ones found before. They attach to a potentially more accessible part of the HIV virus, which could make vaccine design easier.
“We hope that we have a bit of a breakthrough and that the drought is over,” said Dennis Burton of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., the senior author of the study.
The search for an HIV vaccine has been one of modern medicine’s biggest challenges — and disappointments. There have been about 100 vaccine trials since 1987, but not a single notable success.
About 33 million people were living with HIV world-wide in 2007, the most recent year for which global statistics were available, according to the United Nations. That same year, about two million people died of AIDS and there were 2.7 million new infections.