Research: are cows the key to treating HIV?

Antibodies from cows could neutralize HIV
HIV is a disease that is widespread around the world and often causes death. Researchers have now found that some animals quickly produce specific types of antibodies that can neutralize HIV. Cows have developed a very strong immune system due to their complex digestive system. Experts are now investigating whether cows' antibodies can be used to neutralize HIV.

In their current investigation, scientists from the International Aids Vaccine Initiative and the Scripps Research Institute found that cows have a very strong immune system and produce antibodies that could actually neutralize HIV. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Nature".

HIV virus mutates quickly and is difficult to treat
HIV is a very difficult disease to treat. The virus quickly mutates when a patient's immune system has found a way to fight it, the authors say. However, there are a small number of patients who eventually develop largely neutralizing antibodies after years of infection.

Antibodies were quickly produced by the cow's immune system
A new vaccine could now train the immune system to produce these largely neutralizing antibodies at the very beginning of the disease. For this purpose, the experts tried to immunize cows. The required antibodies were produced by the cow's immune system in a few weeks, the scientists explain.

Cow antibodies neutralize 20 percent of HIV strains within 42 days
It takes three to five years for humans to develop the required antibodies, and only a few weeks for cows. “Who would have thought that cows could make a significant contribution to the treatment of HIV,” emphasize the study authors. The results of the study showed that cow antibodies can neutralize 20 percent of HIV strains in just 42 days.

Antibodies were able to neutralize 96 percent of the strains examined
After 381 days, 96 percent of the strains tested in the laboratory were finally neutralized. In contrast to human antibodies, so-called cattle antibodies have unique properties. The structures of the antibodies in humans and cows are structured differently.

The cows' digestive system is home to a particularly large number of bacteria
Cows are ruminants, they have a special digestive system to digest eaten grass. The animals' digestive system is teeming with hostile bacteria. This is the reason why the animals have developed the necessary antibodies to keep the bacteria at bay, the experts explain.

Are cows a source of new medication?
The results of the study show that cows can be a source of medication in the future. For example, microbicides can be produced to prevent HIV infection. The real goal, however, is to develop a vaccine that causes the human immune system to produce antibodies that can fight the disease, the researchers explain. The current cattle study could help to achieve this goal.

Exceptional immune systems are particularly interesting for medical professionals
It has been known since the early days of the HIV epidemic that the virus mutates very quickly to counter treatment. For this reason, exceptional immune systems, which can produce natural, largely neutralizing antibodies, are particularly interesting. It doesn't matter whether these antibodies are found in humans or animals, the experts say. (As)

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