Have South Africans discovered an antibody that will kill HIV virus? Crystal Eye Studio/Shutterstock

The AIDS epidemic, since its discovery in 1981, has claimed over 25 million lives and currently, is a public health concern. Scientsts have been working towards a cure for the disease for years, but as of now, there is no fullproof cure. But scientists in South Africa have reportedly mapped the evolution of an antibody that kills different HIV strains. This finding is significant, as the scientists believe that the antibody will lead to a vaccine that will put a stop to the incurable disease.

The scientists, according to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), have been monitoring and studying one female patient's response to the HIV infection and the antibodies she's created. Published in the journal Nature, the study has been able to identify antibodies that are produced in the body's response to HIV. While most antibodies do not manage to kill the virus, a few "broadly neutralizing antibodies" can damange the protective layer of the virus and kill it.

"The outer covering of HIV has a coating of sugars that prevents antibodies from reaching the surface to neutralise the virus. In this patient, we found that her antibodies had 'long arms', which enabled them to reach through the sugar coat that protects HIV," Penny Moore, one of the lead scientists, said in a statement.

According to Lynn Morris, the head of the virology unit at NICD, the researchers have successfully cloned the antibodies that the body creates in response ot the virus and are currently being tested to see if they can immunize a patient without the disease. Morris adds that human testing is estimated to be two years away. "We are going to test them first on monkeys and if it works on monkeys we will go on to humans," she said to Reuters.

Earlier this year, a new study from the German Research Centre for Environmental Health, in Munich, found that HIV treatments could be found in geranium plants. Specifically, the study finds that HIV-1 (there are two types of HIV: HIV-1 and HIV-2) can be prevented from invading human cells by being exposed to extracts of the geranium plant Pelargonium sidoides, which halts the virus from taking over by not allowing it to replicate. The researchers involved in the study found that geranium extract protects blood and immune cells from the infection by preventing the HIV particle from attaching to the human cells. Essentially, the plant extract can not only stop the virus from replicating but also stops the virus from invading a human cell.

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