Scientists at the National Institutes of Health may have just discovered a powerful new tool in the fight against HIV. According to a press release, a newly identified antibody called N6 found in an HIV-infected person could successfully neutralize 98% of HIV isolates, including 16 of 20 HIV strains that are resistant to similar antibodies. Researchers published their findings Tuesday in Immunity. N6 could be more effective than another antibody, VRC01, that was discovered in 2010 and is currently in clinical trials. Out Magazine reports VRC01 could stop up to 90% of HIV strains.
N6 works by binding to the HIV envelope and preventing it from attaching to the body's immune cells. It's hard to find antibodies that are as effective as N6 appears to be at attaching themselves to HIV because HIV quickly changes its surface proteins. N6 gets around that problem by focusing on parts of the HIV envelope that don't change very much. Scientists say N6 may be able to be developed to treat or prevent HIV infection. In 2015, more than 36 million people worldwide—nearly 2 million of them children—had HIV/AIDS, RT reports. It's estimated only 54% of people know whether or not they have HIV. ("Patient Zero," who brought AIDS to the US, actually didn't.)