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

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.

"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."

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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.

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