India is close to getting some positive leads for developing a vaccine against the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS. As researchers the world over are engaged in developing a vaccine for HIV, researchers at HIV Vaccine Translational Research Laboratory in India are close to isolating neutralising antibodies from HIV-infected individuals who have been infected but have not developed any disease for years.

Once the researchers isolate these natural antibodies in such HIV infected persons, they will be able to study how these naturally battle the virus in the human body, which could provide a path for developing a vaccine. “As things stand at present, we may be able to isolate these natural antibodies within a year,” Jayanta Bhattacharya, Principal Investigator, said.

Although efforts to come out with a HIV vaccine are globally on, researchers are not yet anywhere close to bringing out an effective vaccine, especially as there are many strains of the virus, with ability to mutate frequently, and lack of ideal animal model for research.

Dominant strain

The dominant strain infecting people in India is the type C, which is also dominant in South Africa. “Even both the strains (in India and Africa) have different characteristics and mutations,” Bhattacharya told Business Line on the sidelines of a Vaccine India Summit here.

About three to four per cent of those infected with the virus in India and globally belong to this category of individuals who have the natural ability to fight the virus without any antiretroviral therapy.

It is these “broadly neutralising antibodies” that the researchers believe will provide the breakthrough for an effective vaccine.

(This article was published on March 5, 2014)
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