Researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University primate center say that a new treatment destroyed an HIV-like virus in two newborn monkeys in only two weeks.
Monkeys cannot get HIV, so the scientists had to create SHIV, a hybrid that was made up of HIV and the simian immunodeficiency virus, the equivalent of HIV in monkeys, notes the Daily Mail.
The researchers also mass produced anti-HIV human antibodies in a lab. Those antibodies -- the treatment -- were injected into the newborn monkeys on days one, four, seven and 10. When the monkeys were tested 14 days later, both of the simians were clear of the SHIV virus, according to the scientists.
The researchers said their study was a "significant development" in the medical fight against HIV.
"We knew going into this study that HIV infection spreads very quickly in human infants during mother-to-child transmission," Dr. Nancy Haigwood, author of the study, said.
"So we knew that we had to treat the infant [monkey] quickly but we were not convinced an antibody treatment could completely clear the virus after exposure," Haigwood added.
"We were delighted to see this result."
The researchers are hopeful that this type of treatment might someday work on human newborns who are exposed to HIV via their mothers.
"We're very excited about this study because we think it opens some doors for alternative therapies that could be used to prevent infection in babies and children," Haigwood told The Oregonian.
"It was 100 percent effective," she added.
The researchers found that their HIV-like virus spread in the monkeys within 24 hours.
"It was much faster than we expected," Haigwood stated. "It's very thorough in its ability to infect all parts of the tissue and the blood."
One big advantage to this type of treatment is the anti-HIV human antibodies will stay stable, which allows them to be shipped around the planet and be stored.
An advantage over antiretroviral drugs is that anti-HIV human antibodies are not toxic. While manufactured medications have side effects, anti-HIV human antibodies come from the human body.
The anti-HIV human antibodies may someday eliminate HIV infection and allow a newborn to safely breastfeed from its HIV-positive mother.
Haigwood and her team plan to do more experiments with different anti-HIV human antibodies, inject them longer after exposure to HIV, add drug treatments and lower the dosage.