by Graham Pierrepoint
HIV and AIDS have long been feared – it’s thought that we are still in the middle of an epidemic with the disease, with over 34 million people thought to be living with HIV at present, and with around 35 million people having been killed by the virus since the spread was first recorded. It is a disease which has been widely spread through sexual intercourse and blood sharing, leading to widespread campaigns worldwide to encourage safe sex and needle use to prevent a rising mortality rate. All things considered, however, medical advances have now allowed people who are considered HIV-positive to live long and relatively healthy lives without it mutating into AIDS – whereby sufferers become incredibly susceptible to even the slightest of illness. It is thought that an effective cure, or treatment, may be on the horizon sooner than many thought – and this week, it appears that another breakthrough is being trialed.
Cows are currently being tested due to their unique antibodies – which, generally, react incredibly strongly against the threat of even the slightest of illnesses. HIV is notoriously difficult to fight against – as it has appeared that sufferers lack the antibody resistance to prevent the virus from getting any further. This is the main issue, it seems, that vaccine researchers are tackling – though it is being reported that cows injected with an artificial antibody created to attack HIV are building incredible defenses in very short spaces of time.
Bovines cannot contract HIV, however, their antibody structure and famous defense against illness is being used to test out antibodies created to defend against HIV in human patients. It’s thought that it took just two months for HIV antibodies to form and solidify against a potential attack – which is, of course, incredible news for those aiming to push a vaccine through which will hopefully allow health services to turn the fight around.
This research continues to be hugely important in helping researchers to understand exactly how antibodies are created, and what it takes for an immune system to get ready to fight off intruding disease. While we already have vaccines and treatments in place to ward off illnesses that killed our ancestors centuries ago, we are still a way off destroying HIV for good – though there does seem to be an encouraging chance that we may see a vaccine produced and the tide turned during our lifetime.