HIV Vaccine? Antibodies from Pregnant, HIV Positive Mothers
Not every child of HIV positive mothers ends up with the disease. The reasons for this have been hotly debated since it is hoped that the mechanism could be duplicated as some form of HIV vaccine. At first, a certain antibody response was considered a possible way that the disease was held at bay. While this was later discounted as being incorrect, new data has researchers once again believing that this antibody response is, in fact, the answer they have been searching for all along.
Each year, about a quarter of a million babies are born with HIV, having been infected during pregnancy by HIV positive mothers. This number, however, is only a small fraction of the babies born to HIV positive mothers during a year. The fact that something prevents most babies from infection certainly caught the attention of researchers who are always on the lookout for an HIV vaccine that can prevent infection.
The Notable Antibody Response
When infants are not infected with HIV due to transmission, the common variable seems to be what is referred to as a V3 neutralizing antibody (due to the fact that it responds to the V3 loop on the HIV envelope). This antibody had been written off by researchers in the past because it does seem to be a strong enough response to prevent transmission. In fact, it has proved ineffective in certain lab tests. So why does it prevent transmission from mother to child?
Additional Factors for HIV Positive Mothers
It is believed one of the factors that makes this immune response more effective in warding off transmission from mother to child lies in the effectiveness of the mother’s antibodies because they can neutralize HIV infection. Obviously, testing will now continue to determine if experimental vaccines can be boosted by this V3 neutralizing antibody. While every child is not kept safe from transmission by this antibody response, researchers hope to use this as a jumping point, something they can use one day to increase the effectiveness of an HIV vaccine someday.