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Why Llamas Could Be Holding The Secrets to HIV/AIDS Vaccine and Cure

A team of medical researchers from the University College London (UCL) and Scripps Research Institute conducted a research on South American llamas’ antibodies. The research found that llamas could be holding the secret to the much sort after Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) vaccines and cure for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Why Llamas Could Be Holding The Secrets to HIV/AIDS Vaccine and CureAccording to the team of researchers, llamas’ antibodies have proven to be effective in fighting off up to 60 strains of the HIV virus. This would be a landmark success in medicine in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Ever since the first reported case of HIV infection, the medical science fraternity all over the world has been in a tight race to come up with a vaccine or a cure for the fatal disease. The closest to HIV vaccine and AIDS’ cure that medical scientists have gotten, is by coming up with treatments that only relieves the symptoms and delays its progression.

Dr. Laura McCoy from UCL, who was also the lead researcher for the team said that llamas’ antibodies produce “neutralizing antibodies,” that are absent in the human body. Also in the team, was Prof Robin Weiss, an HIV expert and Theo Verrips, an expert in llama antibodies.

The trio discovered a combination of four antibodies present in llamas that can destroy up to 60 strains of the HIV virus.

Dr. McCoy said, “This shows that immunization can induce potent and broadly neutralizing antibodies in llamas with features similar to human antibodies, and provide a framework to analyze the effectiveness of immunization protocols.”

However, it is impossible for the human body to produce llamas’ antibodies. Hence, researchers are floating the idea of possibly injecting llama’s antibodies into the human body, but critics argue that this could lead to undesirable reactions by the human body. Thus, they have resolved to come up with a more effective and safe ways of conducting such procedures.

One of the possible solutions presented so far by scientists is to have the llamas’ antibodies genetically modified. By editing their genes and influence how those cells will work when inside the human body.

Related: Scientists discover an ‘Exciting’ drug that flushes out HIV virus from patient’s DNA.

Stats from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that ever the first reported case of HIV infection, there has now been up to 78 million people infected with HIV virus. Out of this figure, 39 million people have succumbed to the virus. It is estimated that by the end of 2013, up to 35 million (33.2 – 37.2 million) people were reported living with the virus.

Credit: WHO

Credit: WHO

Sub-Saharan Africa has been the hardest hit region with the HIV virus compared to other parts of the world. According to WHO, 71% of the people in the world living with the virus, are in sub-Saharan Africa. That translates to about 1 person in every 20 adults has the virus.

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