To develop an effective vaccine and medicine for HIV virus, which causes AIDS, has remained challenge for scientists around the world for many years. AIDS is a syndrome, not a single disease, for which developing a medicine is quite difficult. Till now no vaccine has been developed against AIDS. But there is encouraging news that gives scientists some hope for developing antibodies against AIDS that will help produce a vaccine for this deadly syndrome.

A recent science symposium on HIV Vaccine R and D, held at the Capital&’s National Institute of Immunology with the collaboration of Transnational Health Science and Technology Institute and International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, highlighted a new research finding that llamas and camels may be a source for producing antibodies against HIV-AIDS. Presenting this finding, Dr Robin A Weiss, noted for discovery of endogenous retrovirus in chickens, said CD4 is the binding receptor for HIV.

“Llamas, camels and their close relatives are unusual in producing a unique kind of antibody in addition to the common ones produced by all mammalian species including human species,” said Dr. Weiss. “Like conventional antibodies, the heavy chains can recognise antigenic sites on the outer envelope and capsule of virus particles”. After harnessing the antibodies from llamas and camels, the vaccine could be developed. Secondly, by fitting a single variable domain on heavy chain (VHH) on to the top of a human antibody frame, they could be used for passive transfer into infected people to destroy the virus in the blood. Thirdly, the small llama VHH molecule can be used as microbecide in the vagina to lower the risk of sexual transmission of HIV and last, llama VHH will be useful in designing the new generation diagnostic test for HIV based on cell phone technology wherever there is no reliable supply of electricity or sophesticated laboratory equipments. “The Immunisation procedures are entirely harmless to the llamas and camels, which cannot get infected by AIDS,” said Dr Weiss.