Skip to main content


IDIBAPS-Hospital Clínic Barcelona has opened a new avenue in the fight against AIDS after finding that 2.3% of HIV positive patients generate antibodies that neutralize most strains of HIV. This is the first step towards identifying the epitope capable of inducing development of these antibodies, which would be an excellent candidate for a preventative vaccine based on the development of broad-spectrum neutralizing antibodies. Other highly effective preventative vaccines work in this same way, including the papillomavirus, hepatitis A and B, and poliomyelitis vaccines.

The neutralizing antibodies don’t work on patients already infected with HIV but, when introduced by the vaccine, could prevent infection in uninfected patients who are later exposed to the virus. Therefore, the next step is to induce broadly neutralizing antibodies in patients that haven’t yet acquired the virus. “The next stages of our research will be to characterize these broad-spectrum neutralizing antibodies and identify the part of the virus they induce, which could act as a potential preventative vaccine for healthy patients,” explains Dr. Eloisa Yuste, a researcher at the Hospital Clínic linked to the HIVACAT project.

In order to better understand the induction of neutralizing antibodies, researchers at IDIBAPS-Hospital Clínic Barcelona have included, for the first time, patients treated with a low level of viral replication. They have analyzed 508 samples from 364 patients (191 untreated and 173 under antiretroviral treatment) using a new strategy based on recombinants viruses. “We have shown that patients receiving antiretroviral treatment are able to induce a broad and strong humoral immune response (broad-spectrum neutralizing antibodies) for HIV despite having undetectable viremia,” says Yuste. In these patients, the low level of antigenic stimulation may be compensated by an improved B cell function induced by antiretroviral treatment.

The total number of people infected with HIV in the world exceeds 30 million and there are about 3 million new infections per year. Only 30% of the more than 10 million patients who need it have access to antiretroviral treatment, according to Hospital Clínic Barcelona. The main hope for reducing the incidence of AIDS is a preventative vaccine.

The HIVACAT project

The research and AIDS vaccine development project, HIVACAT, is made up of two of the most important, consolidated research centers currently working on AIDS research: the AIDS Research Institute IrsiCaixa Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol and the Hospital Clínic Barcelona Infectious Disease and AIDS Service. The project’s aim is to research the development of a new HIV vaccine, in conjunction with Catalan pharmaceutical company Esteve, and with support from the "la Caixa" Foundation, the Catalan Departments of Health and the Economy, and the Clínic Foundation. This consortium is the first significant collaboration experience in this field between the administration, researchers and business. More than 60 scientists are working on this project.

In Spain, the project is co-chaired by Dr. Bonaventura Clotet from Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol and Dr. Josep Maria Gatell from Hospital Clínic. Scientific coordination is headed by IrsiCaixa researcher and ICREA professor, Christian Brander.

Related news (3/1/2013)

Sign up for our newsletters

Stay up-to-date on the latest news, events and trends in the BioRegion.