The University of KwaZulu-Natal-based Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa has partnered with the US National Institute of Health to manufacture an antibody against HIV infection, the Sunday Times reports.

Acclaimed HIV/Aids expert Professor Salim Abdool Karim said that the human studies will start in the middle of next year following promising results when the antibody from the 27-year-old KZN woman was successfully tested on monkeys. The mother of two – known as CAP 256 to protect her identity – tested HIV-positive in 2005.

“We have taken the antibody that she was making and genetically engineered it and now it’s a much better antibody. We tested it in monkeys and the results were terrific. We now know that this antibody can protect said Karim. He said the big question was whether this would work in humans, “because what happens in monkeys does not always translate to humans”.

If the trials are successful, “the idea is to give this antibody as an injection every four to six months to protect someone from getting HIV. If that works we can change the course of this epidemic,” Karim is quoted in the report as saying.

Karim said the woman’s cells that produced the antibody – regarded as among the most potent in the world against HIV infection – were being grown in the laboratory in preparation for the human trials next year. The report says, however, that the Durban-based professor, who bagged the Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Award last year in recognition of his research on HIV prevention and treatment in Africa, could not speculate on the cost of the antibody.

The report says the world has committed to ending the HIV/Aids epidemic by 2030 and next week the UN is hosting a high-level meeting in New York that will set the global agenda for the 21st International Aids Conference in Durban the week after that. “I’m hoping that this (Durban) conference will be an opportunity to better understand the Aids epidemic in Africa and put more effort into trying to find a solution,” said Karim. “We have a few presentations on our antibodies at the conference but these are not major clinical studies as we are still manufacturing the antibody,” he said.

Medical Brief


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