Has The AIDS Vaccine Been Found? New Drug Blocks Every Strain Of HIV

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Even as a virulent new strain of HIV has been discovered in Cuba, researchers are seeing promising results in a drug that’s so effective, it could potentially work as a vaccine against the virus.

Related: Aggressive New HIV Strain Converts To AIDS Faster Than Ever

Scientists from Harvard Medical School, the Scripps Research Institute and elsewhere have tested the drug, eCD4-lg, on rhesus macaques, which are vulnerable to simian HIV. Macaques inoculated with eCD4-lg did not get infected, though, even when they were repeatedly exposed to high levels of simian HIV.

In the lab, researchers found the drug blocked every known strain of HIV-1 and HIV-2, the two main types that infect humans.

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“Our compound is the broadest and most potent entry inhibitor described so far,” lead researcher Michael Farzan, an immunologist at the Scripps Research Institute. “Unlike antibodies, which fail to neutralize a large fraction of HIV-1 strains, our protein has been effective against all strains tested, raising the possibility it could offer an effective HIV vaccine alternative.”

Related: New Smartphone Attachment Detects HIV In 15 Minutes

Farzan’s team began their research more than a decade ago, exploring the CCR5 receptor, which plays a key role in enabling HIV to latch onto the surface of a cell and begin replicating. The new drug compound binds to two sites on the surface of the virus simultaneously, preventing it from infecting a cell.

“When we did our original work on CCR5, people thought it was interesting, but no one saw the therapeutic potential,” says Farzan. “That potential is starting to be realized.”

Related: 7 Things You Can Do To Fight AIDS Right Now

The benefits of eCD4-lg have only been proven in animal and lab testing—human trials may be some ways off.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery