NIH-Led Scientists Find Antibodies that Prevent Most HIV Strains from Infecting Human Cells

Scientists have discovered two potent human antibodies that can stop more than 90 percent of known global HIV strains from infecting human cells in the laboratory. The scientists also have demonstrated how one of these disease-fighting proteins accomplishes this feat. According to the scientists, these antibodies could be used to design improved HIV vaccines, or could be further developed to prevent or treat HIV infection. Plus, the method used to find these antibodies could be applied to isolate therapeutic antibodies for other infectious diseases as well.

Led by a team from the NIAID Vaccine Research Center (VRC), the scientists found two powerful antibodies called VRC01 and VRC02 in an HIV-infected individual's blood. They discovered the antibodies using a probe they developed that homes in on the specific cells that make antibodies against a very vulnerable spot on HIV.

The scientists found that VRC01 and VRC02 neutralize more HIV strains with greater overall strength than previously known antibodies to the virus.

Health Protection Perspectives

Atomic structure of the antibody VRC01 (blue and green) binding to HIV (grey and red). The precise site of VRC01-HIV binding (red) is a subset of the area of viral attachment to the primary immune cells HIV infects.
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The researchers also determined the atomic-level structure of VRC01 when it is attaching to HIV. This enabled the team to define how the antibody works and to precisely locate where it attaches to the virus. With this knowledge, they have begun to design components of a candidate vaccine that could teach the human immune system to make antibodies similar to VRC01 that might prevent infection by the vast majority of HIV strains worldwide.

NIAID scientists Peter D. Kwong, Ph.D., John R. Mascola, M.D., and Gary J. Nabel, M.D., Ph.D., led the research. A pair of articles about these findings was published July 8 in the online edition of Science.

Finding individual antibodies that can neutralize HIV strains anywhere in the world has been difficult because the virus continuously changes its surface proteins to evade immune system recognition. As a consequence, an enormous number of HIV variants exist worldwide. Even so, scientists have identified a few areas on HIV’s surface that remain nearly constant across all variants. One such area, located on the surface spikes used by HIV to attach to immune system cells and infect them, is called the CD4 binding site. VRC01 and VRC02 block HIV infection by attaching to the CD4 binding site, preventing the virus from latching onto immune cells.

“The discoveries we have made may overcome the limitations that have long stymied antibody-based HIV vaccine design,” says Dr. Kwong.


  1. Omar Bagasra, MD, PhD says:

    Dear Laura:
    There are many antibodies and even chemicals (i.e., Dextran Sulphate) that can inhibit HIV entry into the cells in vitro but at least in the past none has shown any positive effect in vivo. I have doubts that antibodies against HIV have any bneficial effects.
    Omar Bagasra

  2. Bryan Allen says:

    Thanks so much for the article. I have been HIV+ for 20+ years and have managed my disease very well considering I have battled Bukitts Lymphoma and am in remission from that 13 years. Just diagnosed with non small cell lung cancer and taking chemotherapy now at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. I shall win this battle and I have always said if anyone can beat HIV,then I can. A vaccine would be wonderful, but if there is any kind of study on this vaccine with people that are HIV+…please let me know or consider me for the study. I would love to participate in a study for your drug. Thanks in advance for your time.
    Bryan K Allen

  3. Dr. G. Chipoka says:

    I am working in one of the African Mission hospitals where HIV has rendered medical field without proper anwers. Hopfully the discovery of VRC01 and VRC02 antibodies will help ease the HIV pandemic if practically proven effective
    Goodluck, God bless
    Dr. Chipoka
    Malamulo Hospital, Malawi

  4. David Shamer says:

    Thanks for this artical. Has there been any movement whereby the effects of HIV/AIDS are lessened at the street level?
    Thank you,
    David Shamer

  5. aaliyah says:

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