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HIV Antibody VRC01 Shows Promise in Early Trials

Two trials suggest approach might make it possible for patients to discontinue antiretroviral meds

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THURSDAY, Nov. 10, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Antibodies may keep the HIV virus in check and one day allow patients to stop taking antiretroviral drugs, according to research published online Nov. 9 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

For one study (National Institutes of Health), patients were given infusions of VRC01 before they stopped antiretroviral therapy. Additional infusions were given at two and four weeks after halting antiretroviral therapy and then monthly for up to six months. In a second trial (AIDS Clinical Trials Group), researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Alabama gave patients VRC01 infusions one week before stopping antiretroviral therapy and then every three weeks for up to three doses.

After regular intravenous infusions of VRC01, participants in the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the AIDS Clinical Trials Group studies experienced viral rebound at an average of 39 and 28 days, respectively, after antiretroviral therapy was stopped.

The next phase is to infuse two or three antibodies intermittently, and see if antiretroviral drugs can be withdrawn permanently, coauthor Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told HealthDay. If this approach is successful, the possible benefit to patients is that they could stop taking antiretroviral drugs altogether, he said.

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