17 July:Scientists in the United States believe they have uncovered the Achilles heel in the armour of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), a development that may be useful in the treatment and prevention of the infection that continues to kill millions around the world.
First reported in the early 1980s, 33 million people were living with AIDS in 2007, according to a report by the World Health Organization and the United Nations.
Researchers led by Sudhir Paul at The University of Texas Medical School, Houston, believe that they have found the weak spot of the virus, a tiny stretch of amino acids numbered 421-433 on gp120, which is now under study as a target for therapeutic intervention.
"Unlike the changeable regions of its envelope, HIV needs at least one region that must remain constant to attach to cells.
If this region changes, HIV cannot infect cells," said Paul, who is lead author on a paper linked to this theory in a journal.Additional data on the theory are to be presented at the XVII International AIDS Conference from 3rd-8th August in Mexico City.
The team led by Paul has engineered antibodies with enzymatic activity, also known as abzymes, which can attack the Achilles heel of the virus in a precise way, a daily reported.
"The abzymes recognise essentially all of the diverse HIV forms found across the world. This solves the problem of HIV changeability. The next step is to confirm our theory in human clinical trials," Paul said.
Steven J. Norris of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Texas Medical School, said the work of Dr. Pauls group is "highly innovative".
"Their recent work indicates that naturally occurring catalytic antibodies, particularly those of the IgA subtype, may be useful in the treatment and prevention of HIV infection," Norris stressed. Courtsey DD NEWS