Paidamoyo Chipunza recently in CAPE TOWN, South Africa
Zimbabwe has embarked on a new HIV study aimed at assessing if antibodies can be used to prevent contracting HIV from an infected partner if infused directly to a participant.Antibodies are one of the natural ways a human body fights infection.
In this latest study known as AMP (Antibody Mediated Prevention), scientists have manufactured an antibody called VRC01, which will be infused in humans participating in the study through intravenous (IV) fluid (popularly known as a drip) once, after every eight weeks for two years.
In an interview during the AMP study update meeting, which took place recently in Cape Town, South Africa, protocol co-chairperson Dr Nyaradzo Mgodi, said this concept was similar to how vaccines for polio or chicken pox were developed.
“Some of the antibodies that are used for preventing infections are made in laboratories. Manufactured antibodies have been used successfully to prevent dangerous infections,” said Dr Mgodi.
She said laboratory tests have shown that this manufactured VRC01 antibody could prevent many different strains of HIV from infecting cells.
She said apart from assessing the effectiveness of infusing VRC01 into a human body intravenously, the study would also assess if the method of infusion is safe and acceptable.
Dr Mgodi said to date, Zimbabwe had so far recruited 61 women who were participating in the study for the next two years out of a target of 261.
She said recruitments were expected to continue during the course of the two-year study.
She said the study was important in science because it would also push the HIV vaccine agenda forward.
“This study will answer critical questions in development of a vaccine. It’s success will even make the quest to find a vaccine faster and easier,” said Dr Mgodi.
The study will take place at Harare (Spillhaus Clinic), and Chitungwiza (Seke South Clinic).
Elsewhere, the study is being conducted in Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi, Kenya and Botswana.
In total, 1 500 women in Africa are expected to participate in the study.
A similar study is being done in the United States of America, Latin America and Switzerland.
Zimbabwean researchers have immensely contributed to the HIV clinical research field with one of its popular research being the microbicides.
Microbicide gels are applied to a woman’s private parts to protect her from HIV acquisition from an infected partner.