Aids vaccine gets a shot in the arm

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    Aids vaccine gets a shot in the arm
    Published: September 04, 2009, 22:58

    San Francisco: A new blood screening technique has turned up antibodies with the ability to neutralise many strains of the Aids virus, a discovery that might help create a long-sought vaccine against the deadly disease.

    The finding, published yesterday in the journal Science, is the result of a global effort by Aids researchers using new methods.

    "The key thing about the antibodies we've found is that they're more potent than previous ones and that's great for a vaccine," said Dennis Burton, a scientist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, who is at the centre of the new undertaking.

    The antibodies themselves can't simply be put in a vaccine to immunise people against HIV, said Wayne Koff, senior vice president of research and development at the Vaccine Initiative in New York.

    While such an effort could have a short-term benefit, a successful vaccine will teach people's immune systems to produce their own powerful antibodies.

    The researchers also were able to look at the sites where the antibodies bound to proteins on a spike on the surface of the HIV virus. Koff and his colleagues think this spike may represent a vulnerable part of the virus and tracing how these and other potent antibodies attach to it may help them to better map its structure and design a vaccine, he said.

    To find the neutralising antibodies, researchers went to Thailand, Australia and Africa, collecting blood samples from more than 1,800 people who had been infected with HIV for at least three years without the infection proceeding to severe disease.

    Such individuals are most likely to produce antibodies that interfere with the replication of the virus.

    Researchers at Monogram Biosciences and Theraclone Sciences ultimately isolated two antibodies, called PG9 and PG16.

    The antibodies were able to block the activity of about three-quarters of the 162 separate strains of HIV they tested it against.

    *- With additional inputs from Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

    Gulfnews: Aids vaccine gets a shot in the arm

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